Not many Nebraska fans have the Nov. 19 home football game against Maryland circled on their schedules. And we’re not suggesting you need to.
It’s worth noting, though, that the Terrapins have started 4-0, and that they opened Big Ten play with a 50-7 thrashing of Purdue while rushing for 400 yards. The 173 points scored through four games is a school record.
True, Maryland hasn’t faced a murderer’s row schedule, beating Howard 52-13, Florida International 41-14, Central Florida 30-24 in double overtime and Purdue.
But for a program that endured a midseason firing in 2015, new coach DJ Durkin has assembled the remaining pieces admirably.
“Our guys have done a good job of embracing the routine and the process,” Durkin said. If those words sound familiar, recall that last year Durkin was the defensive coordinator at Michigan for Jim Harbaugh, one of the true believers in process.
“We’ve heard a lot of good things. But our guys are very self-aware. Any team on our schedule could beat us if we’re not in the right mindset.”
The biggest difference in Maryland football from this season to last has been turnovers.
In 2015, the Terps were 126th out of 128 schools in turnover margin, with a national-worst 29 interceptions thrown. In 2016, they are tied for 16th and have lost one fumble and thrown one pick.
Durkin said he knew the turnover issue had to flip for any first-year success.
“It’s been a process of talking about it, teaching our players how the game works and how a turnover can really kill you,” he said. “Any time you emphasize something that much, you want to see it pay off on the field. We’ve done it so far.”
Maryland (4-0, 1-0) plays this week at Penn State (3-2, 1-1). The last time the Terps started 5-0 was in 2001, when they won the Atlantic Coast Conference title.
Stat of the week
Indiana hosts No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday. The Hoosiers have never beaten a No. 1- or 2-ranked team in 28 tries.
Players of the week
» Offense: Maryland tailback Ty Johnson. The sophomore from Cumberland, Maryland, ran for 204 yards on only seven carries in a win over Purdue.
» Co-defense: Northwestern end Ifeadi Odenigbo and Penn State safety Marcus Allen. Odenigbo, a senior from Centerville, Ohio, had four sacks and forced a fumble in a win over Iowa. Allen, a junior from Upper Marlboro, Maryland, had 22 tackles in a win over Minnesota.
» Special teams: Minnesota kicker Emmitt Carpenter. The sophomore from Green Bay, Wisconsin, went 4 of 4 on field goals, including go-ahead kicks in regulation and overtime, in a loss to Penn State.
» Freshman: Ohio State tailback Mike Weber. The Detroit product carried 14 times for 144 yards in a win over Rutgers.
Bits and pieces
» Michigan set up for a play last week against Wisconsin with 10 players lined up single-file behind the center before breaking into regular formation and quickly snapping the ball for a 5-yard gain. Coach Jim Harbaugh said assistant Jay Harbaugh, his son, saw the formation on film from a high school game in Colorado.
» Minnesota will be without three defensive starters Saturday against Iowa. Injuries have sidelined linebacker Cody Poock (shoulder), end Tai’yon Devers (ankle) and safety Duke McGhee (undisclosed).
» Michigan State starting defensive tackle Raequan Williams is expected to miss one to two games with an arm injury. Spartan defensive end Malik McDowell will miss the first half this week after his targeting ejection late in last week’s loss to Indiana. Middle linebacker Riley Bullough (shoulder) also will miss his third straight game.
» Indiana defensive coordinator Tom Allen, while at Ole Miss, tried to recruit Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. On Saturday, Allen will scheme against Barrett.