It's time to believe in Maryland football.
Well at least enough to get the Terrapins over their regular-season win projection.
Head coach Mike Locksley pulled the Terps out of the Big Ten basement last season and getting to a bowl game is the bare minimum expectation for the program in 2022.
Taulia Tagovailoa is back at quarterback and there are a handful of returning wide receivers that could make the offense hum from the start of the season, which like 2021, will be vital to getting the Terps to bowl eligibility.
No one in their right mind would pick Maryland to finish in the top three of the Big Ten East, but it is at least better than Indiana and Rutgers and could be close to Penn State's level beneath Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State.
Maryland 2022 Schedule
September 3: vs. Buffalo
September 10: at Charlotte
September 17: vs. SMU
September 24: at Michigan
October 1: vs. Michigan State
October 8: vs. Purdue
October 15: at Indiana
October 22: vs. Northwestern
November 5: at Wisconsin
November 12: at Penn State
November 19: vs. Ohio State
November 26: vs. Rutgers
The Bet: Over 6 Regular-Season Wins (+100)
September is vital for Maryland and its progression toward seven regular-season wins.
A year ago, the Terps went 4-0 with wins over West Virginia, Howard, Illinois and Kent State. That helped the Terps gain bowl eligibility despite going through a brutal Big Ten schedule.
Maryland needs to beat Buffalo and Charlotte in the first two weeks of 2022 to set itself up for the same level of success. The Week 3 matchup with SMU will be a tough one, but the Terps have the benefit of that game being at home.
Even if you take out the SMU game as a win, Maryland's Big Ten schedule is set up for more wins than last season. The Terps should beat Indiana and Rutgers, who are viewed as the two worst teams in the Big Ten East.
Maryland also gets Northwestern at home in a divisional crossover. A fourth Big Ten victory could come from the home clashes with Purdue and Michigan State. Beating the Spartans may be a stretch, but the game is at home and the Terps could be 3-1 going into that contest.
I'm just assuming Maryland falls to Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State. The road trip to Penn State on November 12 could be a toss up depending on how the Nittany Lions' season goes with Sean Clifford under center.
The initial run through of Maryland's schedule gives it at least six wins with the potential for seventh, and maybe even an eighth, depending on how everything comes together with Taulia Tagovailoa controlling the offense.
Tagovailoa threw for 3,860 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. That was the good, but he also threw 11 interceptions and was sacked on 25 occasions.
Ten of his 11 picks came against top-tier Big Ten opponents. He had five interceptions in a brutal performance against Iowa. He had multiple touchdown passes in all but one of Maryland's wins last season.
So it's easy to say Maryland will go as far as Tagovailoa will take it. The sack issue could be solved by having most of the offensive line back for another season. But there may be more reliance on the quarterback to start the season since the Terps are replacing their leading rusher from last season. But that may not be as huge of a loss since no Maryland player recorded over 750 rushing yards in 2021.
The addition of Florida transfer Jacob Copeland at wide receiver should help the passing attack right away and allow the rushing game time to sort things out before the bulk of the Big Ten schedule hits.
Defensively, the Terps need to avoid the massive concessions they had in losses last season. Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa (yes Iowa) put up over 50 points on the Maryland defense in 2022.
I'm not going to sit here and say the Terps will slow down the top Big Ten offenses to win, but there could be potential to trust them as an underdog on the point spread later in the season if the defense progresses. The first real test of that will be in Week 3 when SMU comes to College Park.
At minimum, Maryland should be as good as it was last season. An easier schedule in 2022 combined with an experienced quarterback and key returners on offense should allow the Terps to get one more regular-season win than 2021, which is all I'm asking for to hit the over on the win total.