Maryland welcomes Richmond to College Park for Saturday’s season opener. Richmond, an FCS member, rolls into Byrd Stadium ranked No. 18 in the FCS Coaches Poll, after posting a nine-win 2014 season that ended with a loss to Coastal Carolina in the second round of the FCS playoffs.
In 2014 Maryland finished third in the Big Ten East behind Ohio State and Michigan State, and played in its second consecutive bowl game. The Terrapins haven’t lost a home season opener since 1997 and will look to push their all-time record to 13-5-1 against the Spiders.
Richmond at Maryland
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Maryland -19
Three Things to Watch
1. Will Caleb Rowe See Action at QB?
A few people were surprised to see Maryland junior quarterback Perry Hills tabbed to replace the departed C.J. Brown as a starter. Hills was thrown into action last season when Brown and current backup Caleb Rowe were lost to injury. Hills played in three games for the Terrapins in 2014 and passed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts. In 2012 he started seven games as a freshman and became the first freshman quarterback since 1999 to open the season as a starter. Rowe appeared to have a firm grip on the backup role to Brown last year before an ACL tear in an October practice prematurely ended his season. If head coach Randy Edsall gives Rowe a good number of snaps Saturday, it could mean that he’s not shutting the door completely on Rowe’s chances to eventually start at the position.
2. Can Maryland’s Efficient Offense Keep it Up?
The disparity in talent levels between Maryland and Richmond is quite glaring, but it will be interesting to see if Maryland can pick up where it left off last year in offensive efficiency as a large part of Maryland’s success in 2014 was attributed to the Terrapins’ red zone efficiency rate. In Maryland’s 35 trips to the red zone last season, it scored 24 touchdowns and 11 field goals for an eye popping 91-percent score rate.
3. Can William Likely Carry the Defense?
Maryland junior William Likely returned a kickoff 100 yards in last year’s Foster Farms Bowl matchup against Stanford. He’s a pretty good defensive back, too. His nine pass deflections and six interceptions — which tied for first in the conference — in 2014 earned him first team All-Big Ten honors from coaches. He also added 83 tackles, the fourth highest amount on the team. Likely will be tasked Saturday with helping new defensive coordinator Keith Dudzinski implement a new 4-3 defensive scheme, and offsetting the loss of seven defensive starters.
This is the type of game that has given Maryland trouble in the past. But that shouldn’t be the case Saturday, even though Richmond is a formidable FCS opponent. Edsall appears to have Maryland on the upward trajectory and while the final score isn't likely to be a blowout, the Terrapins should control this one from start to finish.
Prediction: Maryland 34, Richmond 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.