Maryland begins its Atlantic Coast Conference farewell tour with a perfect record, a place in the Top 25 and feeling pretty good about its best start since 2001.
“Everyone has a little bit more swag, they feel confident because they’re going out there and executing and doing what they have to do,” quarterback C.J. Brown said Tuesday. “Everyone is getting recognized for it. We’re No. 25 in the country.”
It’s the first time Maryland (4-0) has been ranked under Randy Edsall, who took over before the 2011 season. The Terrapins won all of their non-league games by a collective 159-41 score. They’re well rested, too, after getting last weekend off following a 37-0 rout of West Virginia on Sept. 21.
So, it would appear as if Maryland is poised to begin its final season in the ACC under ideal circumstances – except that the opposition Saturday is No. 8 Florida State, and the game will be held in a stadium where the Terrapins have never won.
Florida State (4-0) owns a lopsided 21-2 advantage in the series between the teams, including 11-0 at home.
“We are 4-0, they’re 4-0, it’s a nationally televised game. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Brown said. “This is what you play for. To go out there and prove yourself. This will be a good test for us.”
The Terrapins haven’t defeated Florida State since 2004 and have been installed as a 15-point underdog. But this is a Maryland team playing with poise and precision that hasn’t been seen in years. Regardless of the odds, the players like their chances of pulling off an upset.
“Talent-wise we’re as good as we’ve ever been,” guard De’Onte Arnett said. “We’re jelling completely. Everybody has bought into the program, and now is our time.”
The game against FSU marks the beginning of the end of Maryland’s run in the ACC. Next year, the Terrapins will begin play in the Big Ten, and they’d like nothing better than to make some noise in the ACC before making their exit.
Beating FSU would be a heck of a start, especially at Doak Campbell Stadium, which has long been a house of horrors for the Terrapins.
“When you beat that’s higher ranked, it’s obviously a statement game,” linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil said. “It would mean a great deal to me to break barriers and set the tone for the rest of the season.”
This is what Edsall envisioned for the program when he got started. After going 2-10 and 4-8 in his first two seasons, he’s finally got the Terrapins playing fundamentally sound football. Yet, in his eyes, the team remains a work in progress.
“We’re nowhere near where we need to be,” he said. “Everybody has to understand the season isn’t over after four weeks. We have so much more we need to accomplish and want to accomplish. We’re going in the right direction. We’ve got to continue to stay humble and hungry. We got to this point because we’ve done things the right way in terms of what it takes to win at this level.”
The biggest difference in this year’s team is Brown, who missed all last year with a torn ACL. He has thus far thrown for seven touchdowns, run for six and should provide an ample challenge to a Florida State defense that last week yielded 34 points in a win at Boston College.
Brown believes the Terrapins will do just fine if they don’t get carried away with the enormity of the challenge.
“Everyone’s going to be fired up,” he said, “but you have to go out there and execute, act like you’ve been there before.”
A victory on Saturday would be groundbreaking, even though Edsall has seemingly convinced his players it’s just another game on the schedule.
“It would mean a lot more to me to be 5-0 than to beat FSU,” Arnett said. “It’s about making a statement that this team is on the rise, we’re here and better than we’ve ever been. This is the next game on that journey.”