Adding to the drama is the fact that not so long ago, current Nittany Lion coach James Franklin was the coach-in-waiting for the Terrapins, a situation that changed when new athletic director Kevin Anderson took over in 2010 (and prompted Franklin to bolt to become head coach at Vanderbilt in 2011).
To get the Maryland perspective on these topics and more, we went to THE source for UMD coverage -- TerrapinTimes.com of the Scout network. TT analyst Dave Lomonico chimes in on five pressing questions below:
1. What is the general perception of James Franklin among Maryland fans, given that he was once coach-in-waiting of the program?
DL: James was always a popular guy and passionate coach and recruiter in most Terps fans' eyes. When Franklin left for Vanderbilt and built the program into a winner in the SEC, the perception for some was, Look what we could've had if we'd kept him in College Park. Fans generally viewed him positively, someone who was making the most of a head coaching opportunity and proving everyone wrong -- that you couldn't win at Vandy. And even when Franklin moved on to Penn State, that perception didn't change immediately -- until he started talking the talk and walking the walk.
When Franklin began recruiting the DMV in earnest, cherry-picking some of the area's top talents, coupled with his comments that he would basically turn the Maryland-D.C. corridor into PSU South well, some folks got a tad miffed. But that's his personality and passion and drive, and part of what makes him successful, regardless of what UMD fans or others may think of some of the brashness. So the feelings are kind of bittersweet, but a Terps' win Saturday would quell some of that, though they'll likely be reignited once recruiting heats back up again in December. It appears it will be that kind of relationship for years to come.
Franklin during the 2010 season at Maryland.
2. By your completely unscientific guess-timation, what percentage of Terrapin fans would rather have Franklin as the head coach of the program as opposed to Randy Edsall?
DL: That's a tough question, because I think what Terps fans would really like is someone who stressed Randy Edsall's values (education first, an emphasis on character, etc.), but who also had the pizzazz and recruiting prowess of a Franklin. Since you can't have your cake and eat it too, the vibe may be more likely to wait and see until this season is up, and will the Terps finish strong and get a better bowl and more top recruits in this, Year Four of Randy Edsall? Casual Terps fans would undoubtedly be drawn to Franklin's personality, and if he locked down the DMV in recruiting and it translated to victories, well it's a debate that may rage in some circles until Maryland wins a bit bigger and closes its borders more in recruiting. But Edsall has boosted the team GPA and has cleaned up some loose ends in the program, which needed tending to, and for that he has gotten much credit.
3. Is Penn State-Maryland viewed as a significant football rivalry from the Terp side of things?
DL: There is a lot of emotion and passion involved. But to say a 1-35-1 all-time mark with any school is a true rivalry with a straight face is tough. Right now the only thing even close to a rivalry Maryland has (and it's not one) anymore is West Virginia since UVA is no longer on the schedule. And UVA was not even a true rival, as theirs is Virginia Tech. Terps fans are eager to find a new rival in the Big Ten, and Penn State is an obvious choice for many reasons. The Nittany Lions have been sniping recruits from Maryland for forever, so Terps fans have always held somewhat of a grudge toward PSU, even when the schools weren't competing on the field. The 1-35-1 record PSU holds against UMD doesn't suggest it's a real rivalry, but given that one-sided dominance, coupled with the Nittany Lions' recruiting prowess down here, it makes for no love lost on the Maryland side of things. So, yes, Terps fans definitely want to beat Penn State -- maybe more than any other opponent on the schedule this year -- to start up a true rivalry if they can win some more games.
4. We know it's early, but how has the transition to the Big Ten gone for Maryland football beyond wins and losses?
DL: So far, so good. I think fans have really enjoyed the vast upgrade of the BTN programming and the increased exposure it's brought the program, as well as how Maryland has been treated by commissioner Jim Delany. Meanwhile, season ticket sales are up close to 2,000, and welcoming a whole new set of fans from the different schools has been a fun process so far. Both have seemed to enjoy each other's company, and that includes the Terps road trips, too, where fans have had new and richer experiences already.
5. From an X's and O's standpoint, why have the Terps looked so good in some conference games and so bad in others?
DL: Simple -- look at the opponents. Maryland is blessed with plenty of athletes and talented skill players like receiver Stefon Diggs, receiver Deon Long, running back Wes Brown, cornerback Will Likely, safety Sean Davis and the entire linebacker corps, to name a few. But there are limitations up front, especially on the offensive line. The Terps have several good defensive linemen like Darius Kilgo and Andre Monroe, but there's not much depth behind them. The O-line, meanwhile, probably doesn't have one current starter who would be the top option on many other Big Ten lines.
The Big Ten is known for its linemen, and, as the old mantra goes, games are won and lost in the trenches. So Maryland can deal with teams like Iowa -- which lacked primetime athletes and didn't have as much depth up front as some Big Ten foes -- and Indiana -- which had holes defensively and a shortage of elite linemen as well -- but it's going to struggle against programs with a ton of beef. Ohio State had both talent and a strong line, and Wisconsin had enough of each as well, to give Maryland problems.
The other issue is at quarterback, where star-crossed sixth-year C.J. Brown has yet to find his stride through the air after eight games. It doesn't help that he has been banged around during his career, with both season-ending shoulder and knee injuries in the past, while this year he is fighting through both wrist and back injuries. His greatest assets are his feet in the zone-read game, but opponents have begun to take that away, while also loading the box and not respecting his arm until he can prove otherwise.