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Behind Enemy Lines Q&A: Maryland

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What can Maryland do to challenge Michigan? Find out in my interview with Testudo Times.

NCAA Football: Minnesota at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland Terrapins have been a bit of a roller coaster since joining the Big Ten just a few short years ago. But as of late under the guidance of D.J. Durkin, the Terrapins looked to build a team that could at least compete on the field with the top tier teams in the Big Ten East — arguably the toughest division in all of football.

But now that a scandal involving the death of a player has resulted in Durkin being placed on administrative leave and a team having to rally around an interim coach, can Maryland circle the wagons and put together a solid season?

Well, Thomas Kendziora of TestudoTimes.com and I sat down to discuss just that. We talked about the upcoming game and much more.

Josh LaFond: How are you and Maryland fans for that matter feeling about the current scandal centered around the death of former player Jordan McNair

Thomas Kendziora: It’s certainly been a hectic story to cover. Any story centered around a 19-year-old football player’s death is absolutely tragic. The school immediately launched an external investigation, but mostly went silent until ESPN reports in August turned all this into a national story. Most fans outside Maryland (and several inside) think D.J. Durkin is an abusive coach and should have been fired months ago. Some Terps fans have come to believe that a lot of the allegations are overblown and that a lot of the actions described are regularities in college football. Those two sides have been jawing back and forth for nearly two months.

Our site is run by student journalism majors, so we’ve tried to be as impartial and fair as we can be in covering this. I personally never came up with an opinion on whether Durkin should stay or go, and my best guess on whether he stays or goes has fluctuated. It’s such a complex thing with more of a gray area than anyone wants to admit. The personnel decisions might come soon, but this will linger over Maryland for a while.

Josh: Speak to the job Matt Canada has done in the absence of D.J. Durkin — who was placed on administrative leave for the aforementioned scandal.

Thomas: Since being named acting head coach in August, Canada has been about as good as one could hope. He’s handled the situation well in the media, and the players seem to be rallying around him. Canada came to be an offensive play-caller, and he’s mostly done a good job with that considering he’s got a lot more to worry about. It’s unclear what his performance in this role might lead to, but he’s been well-received so far.

Josh: Maryland seems to have a ton of speed on both offense and defense. So who are a couple of players on both sides of the ball that’ll place their stamp on this game?

Thomas: Each of the last three games has been more of a breakout for Anthony McFarland than the last. The former high four-star running back battled an injury in his senior year of high school and redshirted his freshman year in College Park, but this year has been a coming-out party for him. After a quiet game against Texas, he had 122 scrimmage yards (69 rushing, 53 receiving) at Bowling Green. Against Temple, his 107 rushing yards were the lone bright spot in an abysmal performance. And he had 112 on just six carries against Minnesota, scoring his first two touchdowns in the process.

Defensively, Antoine Brooks should be everywhere. The junior nickel corner is third on the defense in total tackles behind Maryland’s two linebackers, and he leads the team with 4.5 tackles for loss. He’s got 1.5 sacks to go with two pass breakups and the game-sealing interception at Texas. (He started that play on the line of scrimmage, by the way.)

Josh: If I told you that you could choose going vegan or giving up all use of the internet for a year and it would result in a Maryland Terrapins Big Ten title, would you do it? And if so which option did you pick?

Thomas: A Big Ten title sounds like too small of a reward for either of those things. I’d consider it for a national championship. Maybe my answer would be different if the internet wasn’t essentially a professional requirement in journalism, but I’ll have to decline this deal with the devil.

Josh: As of today, who do you see as the four teams in the College Football Playoff come December?

Thomas: When I came on this site in the summer, one of my bold predictions was that Wisconsin would be in the Playoff, and that prediction only looks a little better than Heisman Dark Horse Khalil Tate.

We’re five weeks into the season but I worry we’re headed for the inevitable playoff field of Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma (although I think either Stanford or Washington can win out and get in, and Georgia hasn’t done anything wrong yet). But I’m honestly hoping that prediction pans out about as poorly as my summer ones. Let’s get some chaos going.

Josh: Let’s wrap it up with a game and score prediction.

Thomas: I think a rested, underrated Maryland team hangs around, explodes for a few big plays and gives Michigan fans reason to worry. But ultimately, the talent gap is still clear, and the home-field advantage is the cherry on top. I’ll say the Terps cover the 17.5-point spread but lose 28-17 in the Big House.

Special thanks to Thomas Kendziora and the entire staff at TestudoTimes.com. They do an excellent job covering Maryland athletics and providing insight especially into the Michigan game this week.

You can also click HERE to check out my preseason Q&A with Thomas.