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Big Ten Football Preview 2015: Maryland's season outlook

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Stefon Diggs is one of several players the Terrapins have to replace in 2015

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland posted some of the worst statistics amongst FBS teams last year, but managed to rack up seven wins in its Big Ten debut.

With only 10 starters returning and top receiver Stefon Diggs in the NFL, how will the Terrapins fare in 2015?

This week, we take a look at Maryland in our Big Ten Football season outlook series.

Key returnees

Bueller?...Bueller?

There's a whole lot of emptiness in College Park this year.

Gone are Diggs, quarterback C.J. Brown and Maryland's entire defensive line starters. It returns only 10 starters from last year, tied with Rutgers for the worst in the Big Ten, per Phil Steele.

Not only was Brown a mainstay at quarterback for the Terrapins since 2011, he was the team's leading rusher last season.

Rising senior Caleb Rowe is the favorite to succeed Brown. He threw 489 yards and five touchdowns to four interceptions in four games.

Rowe's transition to starting quarterback will be cushioned by an experienced offensive line, with starters Ryan Doyle (fifth-year senior), Michael Dunn (redshirt junior) and Andrew Zeller (fifth-year senior) returning.

As for Maryland's rushing offense, fifth-year senior Brandon Moss and redshirt junior Wes Brown should be a nice backfield duo.

Ross finished second on the team in rushing with 419 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Brown played in 12 games and totaled 356 rushing yards and six scores.

Maryland's receiving corps took a huge hit in the offseason, headlined by Diggs forgoing his senior season to play in the NFL. Second-leading receiver Deon Long graduated.

Marcus Leak, who was expected to fill Diggs shoes, left the program in the spring, and running back Jacquielle Veii, who finished fourth on the team in receiving yards, transferred.

That leaves a ton of responsibility for redshirt junior Amba Etta-Tawo. He totaled 222 receiving yards and a touchdown in 13 games (six starts) last season.

Things don't get much better for Maryland on the defensive side of the ball. It returns only four defensive starters, a decimating blow for an already poor unit last season.

Sean Davis stars at defensive back after totaling 115 tackles in 13 games as a junior last season.

Yannick Ngakoue is transitioning to the defensive line after a nice showing at linebacker last season. The junior posted six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in 12 starts.

Although things are bleak on the returnee front, one of Maryland's stars in 2014 will be back after loading up during award season.

The Terrapins led the nation in field goal percentage (94.7 percent) thanks to the leg of senior All-American Brad Craddock. The Aussie kicker earned the Big Ten's Kicker of the Year award last season after converting 18 of 19 field goals, including 11 of at least 40 yards.

To-do list

Maryland has to improve on both sides of the ball in order to surpass seven wins this season.

It ranked 112th amongst FBS teams in total offense (342.1 yards per game) and 97th in total defense (436.2 yards allowed per game) last year. On top of that, Maryland posted a 32.45 third-down conversion percentage (119th in nation).

With so little retention, addressing these problems won't come easy.

The schedule

Sept. 5 vs. Richmond
Sept. 12 vs. Bowling Green
Sept. 19 vs. South Florida
Sept. 26 at West Virginia
Oct. 3 vs. Michigan
Oct. 10 at Ohio State
Oct. 24 vs. Penn State
Oct. 31 at Iowa
Nov. 7 vs. Wisconsin (Homecoming)
Nov. 14 at Michigan State
Nov. 21 vs. Indiana
Nov. 28 at Rutgers

Besides a trip to West Virginia to close out September, Maryland's non-conference schedule seems simple. Maryland played well outside the Big Ten last season, with its only loss coming to the Mountaineers in a last-second heartbreaker.

The Terrapins secured conference wins against Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Michigan last season; they'll face off in rematches this season which, besides Iowa being on the road, should offer a much tougher challenge. Indiana and Penn State should be better while Michigan offers the intimidation of a hungry, Jim Harbaugh-led squad.

If Maryland can get at least three wins against these teams and from its non-conference schedule, it'll be bowl eligible. Besides Rutgers, there won't be many more chances for wins outside that window, with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State offering its usual challenge.

My take: the offseason losses will haunt Maryland; it'll be too difficult to replace Diggs, Brown and company, and its second year in the Big Ten will be a bowl-less dud.

Wins: Richmond, Bowling Green, South Florida.

Losses: Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Rutgers, Michigan

Toss-up: West Virginia, Iowa, Indiana.