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2021 Maryland college football preview: Taulia marches Terps into new season

Mike Locksley has quickly assembled a talented roster in College Park. Will that mean a breakthrough this fall?

NCAA Football: Maryland at Penn State Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Locksley has already assembled an impressive collection of raw talent in just two years at Maryland, and in 2020 we saw brief glimpses of what it could become.

Playing an abbreviated five-game conference only schedule due to the pandemic, the high points came in back-to-back weeks when they: 1. Overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to topple Minnesota 45-44 in overtime and 2. Utilized a ridiculous receiving day by prized five-star prospect Rakim Jarrett to down a hapless Penn State team 35-19.

However those wins were sandwiched between plenty of bad as they were steamrolled by Northwestern 43-3 in the season opener, and ended the campaign with back-to-back losses to Indiana and Rutgers. But the Terps continue to build under Locksley and with a promising quarterback with a famous last name, they’re looking to continue to climb the Big Ten ladder in 2021.

2020 Season Review

  • 2-3 (conference only schedule), 4th in Big Ten East
  • Maryland’s spreads directly correlated to their overall record in 2020, only covering in games they won.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 18th
ESPN Returning Production: 85% overall (10th): 86% offense (14th), 85% defense (17th)
Returning Talent Index: Positive, 4th in Big Ten
Returning starters: 8/11 offense, 6/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Taulia Tagovailoa (Junior)

The younger brother of Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Taulia started to somewhat carve out his own path in 2020 by throwing for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns as the Maryland starter. There were obvious areas of improvement, however, as he also ended up throwing seven interceptions in five games.

Enter new offensive coordinator Dan Enos, who will be tasked with helping bringing Taulia along the same we he helped the older Tagovailoa brother at Alabama. As the Crimson Tide’s QB coach in 2018, Enos helped Tua achieve one of the greatest individual seasons a quarterback has ever had, as he set the FBS passer rating record (199.4) and threw for just under 4,000 yards with 43 touchdowns.

Offense (non-QB): WR Dontay Demus Jr. (Senior)

The attention of the Maryland receiver core generally goes to Rakim Jarrett but do not sleep on Dontay Demus Jr., who led the Terps in receiving last season with 24 receptions for 365 yards and four touchdowns. The Washington D.C. product was named to Pro Football Focus’ Preseason All-Big Ten team.

Defense: Safety Nick Cross (Junior)

Rising up the radar of guys opposing Big Ten offensive coordinators have to look out for is Nick Cross, who earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors last season by tallying 23 tackles, three pass breakups, a sack, and a forced fumble. He played a major role in a Maryland secondary that reduced their yards per pass attempt from 8.0 in 2019 to 6.1 in 2020.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 53rd overall: 64th offense, 44th defense, 75th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 32nd overall: 45th offense, 25th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +50000
To win Big Ten: +4000
Win total: 6 (Over +100, Under -125)

2020 Against The Spread: 2-3
2020 Point Total: Over 1-4

2021 Maryland Schedule

2021 Maryland Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 West Virgina 3:30 pm./ESPN Maryland +3.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 Howard 7:30 pm/BTN N/A
Friday, Sep. 17 at Illinois 9:00 pm/FS1 Maryland -4.5
Saturday, Sep. 25 Kent State TBA N/A
Friday, Oct. 1 Iowa 8:00 pm/FS1 N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 at Ohio State 12:00 pm/TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 OPEN TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 at Minnesota TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 Indiana 12:00 pm/TBA Maryland +8
Saturday, Nov. 6 Penn State TBA Maryland +10.5
Saturday, Nov. 13 at Michigan State TBA Maryland +2.5
Saturday, Nov. 20 Michigan TBA Maryland +7
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Rutgers TBA N/A