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Maryland Football 2023 Season Preview

Maryland Football 2023 Season Preview: Overview, Expectations, Predictions

 

Overview:


How much higher can Maryland go? That is the question entering 2023.

Since taking over as head coach in 2019, Mike Locksley’s Terrapins have improved each and every year. In his first year, Maryland was an abysmal 3-9. In 2020, the COVID year, with only Big 10 opponents on the schedule, the Terps went 2-3.


Then, in 2021, the team emerged for its first winning season since 2014 with a 7-6 record, including the program’s first bowl win since 2010, a 54-10 thrashing of Virginia Tech in Yankee Stadium at the Pinstripe Bowl.


Last season, that improvement continued. Maryland finished 8-5 overall and 4-5 in the Big 10, its best conference record since 2014 while securing a bowl victory over NC State in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.


It’s the first time since 2002-03 that Maryland has won bowl games in back-to-back seasons.


Coach Locksley is building something, but how much more can the team improve? In the Big 10 East, the Terps must play four perennial programs each season: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State.


The Terrapins are 2-11 against those “big 4” under Locksley, but showed tremendous improvement in 2022 from previous years. For comparison, the Terps are 19-17 against the rest of the conference.


In 2021, Maryland lost to the “Big 4” by a combined 126 points across four games. In 2022, the Terps defeated Michigan State, lost on the road to #4 Michigan by 7, lost at home against #2 Ohio State by 13 and were blown out at #14 Penn State 30-0.


Nonetheless, the point differential against those games was -36 in 2022 as opposed to -126 in 2021. I’d call that improvement.


The question now becomes how Maryland takes that next step in conference play and finishes with the program’s first Big 10 winning record since 2010.

 

Nuts & Bolts:

  • Head Coach: Mike Locksley - 5th season (21-28 overall, 10-22 in Big 10 Conference)

  • Program National Titles: 1 (1953)

  • Program Conference Titles: 11 (Last: 2001)

  • 2022 Record: (8-5 overall, 4-5, 4th in Big 10 East)

  • 2022 Postseason: Def. #23 NC State 16-12 in Duke’s Mayo Bowl

  • 2023 Schedule: HERE

 

Offensive Preview:


Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s little brother, Taulia, is back as Maryland’s quarterback for his third season as the starter.

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa enters his final year as the Maryland starter (Photo: Maryland Athletics)


In 2022, his numbers were down while the team improved overall, finishing 38th nationally in passing with just over 3,000 yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 8 interceptions.


A big reason why Tagovailoa’s numbers were down was the Maryland rushing attack. The Terps were in closer games and did not have to throw nearly as much in 2022 vs. 2021 when he threw for over 3,800 yards.

That one-two punch of Sophomore running back Roman Hemby and sophomore running back Antwain Littleton II will alleviate some of the pressure on Tagovailoa in the passing game.


In 2022, Maryland rushed for 141 yards per game and had four running backs finish with more than 100 yards rushing.


Yes, it’ll be a one-two punch from Hemby and Littleton, but I’d expect the bulk of the work to come from Roman Hemby.


The Edgewood, MD native had a breakout 2022 campaign, rushing for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. His 989 yards were good for 43rd nationally and he did it only after solidifying his role in the second half of the season.


Along with his rushing numbers, Hemby caught 33 passes for 298 yards receiving.


I’d expect Hemby to be the season’s breakout performer, but his ceiling is only as high as the offensive line will allow. Last season’s line was very inconsistent, allowing 32 sacks on Tagovailoa.


If offensive line play improves and Hemby breaks out like he’s expected to, the Terps could be one of the more imposing offenses in the Big 10 East.

 

Defensive Preview:


From 2021 to 2022, the Terrapins defense improved pretty dramatically.

In 2021, Maryland surrendered 40 points or more on four occasions, including giving up 51 to Iowa, 66 to Ohio State and 59 to Michigan.


In 2022, however, the Terps gave up 40 points or more just once, against perhaps the best offense in the country, Ohio State, a 43-30 loss (for reference, Ohio State scored 40+ in 10 of its 13 games).


In fact, Maryland ranked #42 nationally in total team defense in 2022, giving up an average of 23.2 points per game. That is a massive jump from 2021 in which the defense ranked #98 in the nation in the same category.


Where Maryland needs to improve is the takeaways. The Terps did well with a tough Big 10 East schedule, but struggled to take the ball away, averaging just 1.2 per game, which ranked 101st in the country in 2022.


If Maryland can stay steady defensively and put up similar numbers, while improving the turnover numbers to set up its offense in advantageous situations, it could very well be the difference in the Terps improving overall in 2023.

 

Season Prediction:


This Maryland team has experience at some of the most important positions, particularly quarterback.


Taulia Tagovailoa was better in 2021 than he was in 2022 and for Maryland to get where they want to go they’ll need an improved version of the 2021 QB.


With Tagovailoa running the show and Roman Hemby running the ball, I like what Maryland will be able to do offensively enough to say that the win total will improve.

Photo: Maryland Athletics


Looking at the schedule, the non-conference slate is light, highlighted with a Friday night game against Virginia in College Park (I’ll be there for House Enterprise).


Into conference play, road trips to Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Nebraska will not be easy. The Terps will play three of the ten best teams in the country this season (Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State), so one could assume it’ll be a minimum of three losses.


From there, can the Terps win the rest? Can they go to Lincoln and win in front of 90,000 Husker fans? Can they beat Michigan State for the second straight year?

I like an eight win season for the Terps this year, which I believe is about the best any Maryland fan could hope for.


It would be the best regular season since 2010, and an overwhelming success if they pull it off.

 

Game-by-Game Prediction: 8-4 (5-4, T-3rd in Big 10 East)

  • Week 1 vs. Towson - W

  • Week 2 vs. Charlotte - W

  • Week 3 vs. Virginia - W

  • Week 4 @ Michigan State - W

  • Week 5 vs. Indiana - W

  • Week 6 @ #3 Ohio State - L

  • Week 7 vs. Illinois - W

  • Week 8 - BYE

  • Week 9 @ Northwestern - W

  • Week 10 vs. #7 Penn State - L

  • Week 11 @ Nebraska - L

  • Week 12 vs. #2 Michigan - L

  • Week 13 @ Rutgers - W

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