Maryland, Texas Tech and Minnesota are three of the biggest surprises after four weeks of the 2013 college football season.
The Terrapins dominated West Virginia last week, crushing the Mountaineers 37-0 in Baltimore. After struggling with quarterback injuries last season, Maryland clearly as a No. 1 option in C.J. Brown. The Terrapins won six games in coach Randy Edsall’s first two years in College Park, and Maryland could easily surpass that total in 2013.
The Red Raiders are coming off a 33-7 victory over Texas State, and both sides of the ball have displayed promise in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb have experienced their ups and downs as true freshmen quarterbacks, but the defense is holding opponents to just 13.3 points a game.
Minnesota has played a relatively soft schedule prior to Week 4, but the win over a solid San Jose State team was impressive. The Golden Gophers are leaning heavily on their ground attack, averaging 282.3 yards per game. This week’s game against Iowa should give the rest of the Big Ten a good idea of where Minnesota stacks up in the conference title picture.
Texas Tech, Maryland or Minnesota: Which 4-0 team should we buy into?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’ll take Maryland. We took some preseason heat for having the Terrapins finishing with seven victories in 2013, but after four weeks, that projection might be too low. Outside of games at Florida State, Virginia Tech and a home date against Clemson, Maryland should be favored in the rest of its schedule. A big reason for the Terrapins’ turnaround in 2013 has been quarterback C.J. Brown. The junior leads the ACC with an average of 331.5 total yards per game, and has a talented duo of receivers at his disposal in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Despite losing a couple of key players, Maryland’s defense is holding opponents to just 4.0 yards per play and leads the ACC with 17 sacks generated. The Terrapins have the best balance on offense and the best defense out of this trio of teams. Maryland is clearly the No. 3 team in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team finish in the top 25 of the final rankings in January.
Of these three, I'll take Maryland because I think the Terrapins have the best shot at a top-three finish in their division/conference. The reality is that other than Texas Tech's win over a ranked TCU none of these teams have really faced any quality competition. Even though this will change (although not this Saturday), I believe Maryland has a clear edge when it comes to each team's remaining schedule. Randy Edsall's team still has to play Clemson and Florida State, but the rest of the Terps' schedule is very manageable. On the other hand, Texas Tech has to navigate the rest of its Big 12 slate, including the gauntlet of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor in a four-week stretch, while Minnesota has Michigan, Northwestern and Nebraska in a row and also gets Wisconsin and Michigan State back-to-back to end the season. So if anything, it looks like Maryland is well-positioned to benefit from playing in the "weaker" ACC, for at least one more season anyways.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Maryland. The Terps have the most talented roster, the most established coach, play in the ACC and have the best defense of the group. The Terps defense has been extremely salty this season, allowing just 4.0 yards per play and 266.0 yards per game. I like both Kilff Kingsbury and Jerry Kill, but Edsall has been doing this head coaching thing for much longer and his quarterback appears to be healthy. While both Texas Tech and Minnesota have dealt with injuries at QB, the Terrapins have an emerging superstar in C.J. Brown (331.5 total yards per game). Packaged with developing star power on offense, Edsall has himself as complete a football team as Maryland has had in years. The Terps also miss Miami and Georgia Tech in crossover play to top it all off.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I think I’m buying Maryland’s 4-0 more than the others, though Minnesota is an interesting case. Maryland probably would have been a bowl team last season if not for an incredible run of quarterback injuries. Randy Edsall’s a pretty good coach, but he’s not the kind of guy who turns things on a dime. Now that his system is in place, and his team isn’t facing injuries and transfers left and right, the Terrapins are proving to be a solid team on both sides of the ball. Are the Terps better than Florida State and Clemson? Probably not, but the Terps are just as good as any team in the ACC Coastal. Like Maryland, Minnesota’s emergence has been a few years in the making. The Gophers might not win eight or nine games, but they play defense and they’ll stay competitive in the Big Ten.
Stephen Schindler (@SteveSchindler)
Give me the Terps and those beautiful Maryland Pride 2.0 uniforms. Maryland’s defense forced six turnovers of the Mountaineers en route to a 37-0 romp over West Virginia. The Terps actually lead the country in turnovers with 13 through just four games. Brian Stewart’s unit has been exceptional this year, allowing just 10.3 points per game, ninth fewest in the nation. The offense has performed near perfectly as well. Quarterback C.J. Brown has completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,043 yards for seven touchdowns and just one interception. In addition, Brown is averaging 6.3 yards per rush and has scored six touchdowns on the ground. Stefon Diggs has proven himself worthy of his No. 2 wide receiver ranking in last year’s recruiting class, as the 2012 ACC Freshman of the Year runner-up recorded 387 yards and three touchdown in his first three games of the season. Coach Randy Edsall appears to have taken himself off of the hot seat, as Maryland has already matched its win total from all of last year, but I predict the Terrapins will double their wins from last year. Maryland is simply a more complete team than either Texas A&M (no rushing game) or Minnesota (no passing game).
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