Maryland, Rutgers adjusting to Big Ten life


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There was some skepticism among most college-football pundits when Maryland and Rutgers officially joined the Big Ten on July 1.

“They’ll struggle to run the ball and adjust to the Big Ten’s physicality,” ESPN wrote about Maryland in its preseason conference power rankings, in which the Terps ranked ninth.

About Rutgers, ranked 13th before this season, ESPN wrote, “Several nice pieces exist, but it’s going to be rocky transition to the Big Ten.”

Yet here we are, more than halfway through the 2014 college-football season, and both Rutgers and Maryland are each just a win away from reaching bowl eligibility.

“As I look at our football program and I look at the Big Ten, I see a tremendous marriage,” Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said at the Big Ten football media days in July. “I don’t think there’s any other conference in the country that we would want to play in.”

Becoming eligible for a postseason bowl isn’t the benchmark for success in a new conference, of course, but it certainly helps with the transition.

Maryland is 5-2 overall, with a 2-1 record in conference play. Its two wins — a 37-15 beating of Indiana and a 38-31 victory over the Hawkeyes — have been impressive, while its lone loss, a 52-24 shellacking from Ohio State, was more of a true welcoming from one of the Big Ten’s elite.

Rutgers is also 5-2, but is just 1-2 against the Big Ten so far. The Scarlett Knights lost to Penn State, 13-10, more than a month ago, but rebounded with a 26-24 win over a reeling Michigan team. They lost to Ohio State last week, 56-17.

A combined 3-3 conference record between the Big Ten newbies won’t blow people away, but it is a more successful start than most thought possible.

“The Terps are ‘this close’ to being 6-1, as a huge win over Iowa has energized this program and made it a factor in the East,” BTN.com’s, Tim Dienhart wrote in his weekly conference power rankings. (He ranked Maryland at No. 5, by the way, and Rutgers at No. 8.)

Those elusive sixth wins won’t come easily, though. Rutgers is still scheduled to play at No. 16 Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, at No. 8 Michigan State, and at Maryland. The Terps, meanwhile, must still compete at Wisconsin, Penn State, and Michigan and host the Spartans and Rutgers.

To put it simpler: Rutgers’ remaining schedule is a combined 24-10, and Maryland’s is 22-11. Each team has just one remaining opponent with a record below .500.

But the tough schedules don’t faze either team.

“Every week is a tremendous challenge. That’s what we really try to focus on,” Maryland coach Randy Edsall said during Tuesday’s Big Ten football teleconference. “… We just worry about ourselves. We try to get better each day. We try to get better each week.

“I always knew there were outstanding coaches in this league, and outstanding players, and that’s come to bear out as we’ve played. But again, I’m under the philosophy that what you have to do is focus on who you are and what you do.

“Right now, through seven games, we’re 5-2. We’ll see where we go from here.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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