Time running out for Maryland-Rutgers to make postseason
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Time is running out for Maryland and Rutgers to become bowl eligible, so winning is becoming a must.
The Terrapins (4-4, 2-3 Big Ten) and Rutgers (3-5, 2-3) will meet Saturday at High Point Solutions Stadium in what might be an elimination game in terms of bowl hopes.
Teams need six wins to make a postseason game, so Maryland, which is coming off an exciting 42-39 win over Indiana, is in better shape. However, the Terps have a brutal schedule for the final three games, facing Michigan (6-2) at home, No. 24 Michigan State (6-2) on the road and closing at home against No. 7 Penn State (7-1).
Rutgers was a longshot to make a bowl coming into the season. It went 2-10 in coach Chris Ash’s first season. There has been improvement this year but getting to six wins is asking a lot. After Maryland, the Scarlet Knights have road games at Penn State and Indiana (3-5) before the regular-season finale at home against Michigan State.
Maryland coach DJ Durkin said the players and coaches understand the significance of the game.
“If you talk about anything other than the task at hand, the game you’re playing that week, I think you’d be crazy as a coach,” said Durkin, who took the Terps to a bowl in his first season in 2016.
Some followers though Rutgers-Maryland would develop into a rivalry between the conference’s newest members, but Ash downplayed that.
“Our focus is trying to build a football team and get as good as we can possibly get,” Ash said. “They’re all big games for us, I don’t care if they’re east, west, north, south.”
This game was originally scheduled to be played at Yankee Stadium, but it had to be moved back to Rutgers because of the New York Yankees’ extended postseason run.
Here are some things to watch in this game:
SCARLET KNIGHTS O LINE: The line has improved. The offense has 17 touchdowns rushing this season after eight last year. It has permitted only 11 sacks, 23rd-fewest in the country and fourth in the Big Ten. Opponents had only six through the first seven games. The Scarlet Knights have had a rushing play of at least 40 yards in each of the last three games.
JOIN THE 2,000 CLUB: Maryland running back Ty Johnson needs 84 yards rushing to become the 13th player in school history to reach 2,000 for his career. The junior topped 1,000 yards last season and this year leads Maryland with 662 yards on the ground. He averages 6.8 yards. He also leads the Big Ten with 494 yards in kick returns, including a 100-yard kickoff return at Ohio State.
OFFENSE TO DEFENSE: Jawuan Harris of Rutgers moved from wide receiver to safety in the bye week. He had a game-high 11 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in his first game against Illinois. After making four tackles against Purdue, he had another interception and 10 tackles at Michigan.
QUITE A CATCH: Terrapins wide receiver DJ Moore has a reception in 29 consecutive games, the longest current streak in the Big Ten and best run at Maryland since Torrey Smith caught a pass in 30 straight games from 2008-10.
Moore ranks first in the conference with eight TD catches and is second with an average of 93.1 yards receiving.
PREGAME: The game at Yankees Stadium was to be a doubleheader with the schools’ wrestling teams meeting in a match. It will remain a doubleheader with the wrestling kicking off at noon. Fans will get a two-for-one ticket, but they will have to leave the stadium after the wrestling match and re-enter for the football game.
AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.