Maryland football’s four most pivotal games in 2024

Maryland football is now 63 days away from kicking off the 2024 season against UConn as head coach Mike Locksley looks to guide the program to four bowl games in as many seasons for the first time in history. Maryland’s favorable non-conference slate (UConn, Virginia, Villanova) coupled with Big Ten games against Michigan State and Indiana could push Maryland to the cusp of bowl eligibility before October, but in the new-look Big Ten, which games stick out above the rest?

Maryland is also set to travel to Minnesota and Oregon while they host Iowa for Senior Day, but we take a look at the four most pivotal matchups on the 2024 schedule.

Northwestern: Oct. 11

Maryland has had a rough time with Northwestern since joining the Big Ten. The Terps have 3-1 against the Wildcats, with their only win coming in 2022.  Another factor to consider in this game is that it’s coming after the team’s first bye week of 2024. Not counting the shortened COVID season, Mike Locksley has gone 0-5 coming off bye weeks since taking over as head coach. That includes last season’s matchup against Northwestern, a game that ended with a late interception deep inside Northwestern territory. It’s time for the team to put their struggles coming off the bye in the past. This game may also be the Terps’ first chance to clinch a bowl appearance for the fourth year in a row. As for who to watch out for in this game, Northwestern doesn’t have their starting quarterback named yet, as last year’s starter Ben Bryant is out of eligibility. Leading receiver Cam Johnson is now with the Dallas Cowboys but AJ Henning and Bryce Kirtz return, along with running back Cam Porter.

USC: Oct. 19

Maryland’s first matchup against one of the new Big Ten teams, coming on homecoming makes this one an easy one to add to the list. USC is coming into 2024 with a new quarterback and Miller Moss looks to be the guy. There have been questions about whether USC is ready for the physicality of the Big Ten. Maryland, meanwhile, replaces their entire starting offensive line and the new unit could be in full sync by this game. This game will be a test for them, as USC has struggled to stop offenses the last few years and was busy in the portal to address it. It’s a chance for both teams to show where they belong in the Big Ten hierarchy, and for Maryland, it could serve as the first big test of the season in what could be a packed SECU Stadium for the highly anticipated matchup. Depending on their record going into the game, a Maryland win against the Trojans could be what finally gets them back in the top 25 for the first time since 2019. There’s also a chance that it clinches a bowl game for the Terps.

Rutgers: Nov. 16

This one shouldn’t be much of a surprise as those two teams came into the Big Ten in 2014 and have been linked since. For the series, Maryland has won seven of ten matchups since joining the conference with the last three being Terps’ blowout wins. Rutgers will look to change that as they’ve been routinely dubbed a potential breakout team heading into the 2024 season. Under Greg Schiano, the Scarlet Knights have shown improvement and finished last season with their first winning record since 2014. The team has seen an increased excitement, evidenced by their work on the recruiting trail lately. Like Maryland, Rutgers will be seeing a change at quarterback, as Gavin Wimsett will be replaced by former Minnesota starter Athan Kaliakmanis. One player the Scarlet Knights are happy to have back is running back Kyle Monangai as he looks to entrench himself as the Big Ten’s top running back after cementing himself as Rutgers’ best player in 2023. Flip Dixon will be back to help lead this defense. This time the result may not be as one-sided as the games have been in years past. Maryland will have to be at their best.

@ Penn State: Nov. 30

There was no way this game was going to be left off the list. Penn State has dominated this series, winning all but four matchups against the Terps while one of those was a tie. Two of Maryland’s wins have come since they joined the Big Ten, both times defeating the Nittany Lions on the road. History, aside since this is the final game of the season it could have big impacts on both sides. For Maryland, a win could clinch their best regular season finish since 2010, when they finished 9-3. It would also provide the marque win against a Big Ten opponent that has escaped head coach Mike Locksley. Having it come against a recruiting rival and former Maryland assistant James Franklin would make it a moment to remember. Penn State could have more on the line with a spot in the Big Ten championship and potentially the college football playoff. Could Maryland play the role of spoiler? Running backs Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton might be the top backfield duo in college football and the defense is expected to be a top unit again. The big question for them is quarterback Drew Allar. After a successful first season as a starter, can he take the next step as both a passer and a leader?

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