Which local team has been a bigger disappointment?
College football has been a wasteland locally this season on what most of us still refer to as the Division I-A level. The Football Bowl Championship Subdivision, as it's now called, is something of a misnomer for Maryland and Navy, since neither the Terps or Midshipmen are likely going to a bowl game or winning any type of championship in 2011.
Going into their respective games Saturday -- the Terps at home against Boston College and the Midshipmen on the road at Notre Dame -- the teams stand at 2-5.
Maryland has lost three straight games, the first two against nationally-ranked Georgia Tech (then No. 13) and Clemson (then No. 8) before getting smoked 41-16 by talented but underachieving Florida State in Tallahassee. After a 2-0 start, the Midshipmen have lost five straight, the team's longest losing streak since going 2-10 in 2002.
So which team has been a bigger bust?
The Midshipmen have turned a succession of good to a little above average quarterbacks into the second coming of Peyton Manning. Or Aaron Rodgers. In fact, Dominique Davis of East Carolina erased Rodgers' name - as well as that of Tee Martin, Manning's successor at Tennessee - from the NCAA record books by completing his first 26 passes in a ridiculous 40-of-45 performance in ECU's 38-35 win over Navy in Annapolis Saturday. An already inexperienced group has been depleted by injuries - leading to a pair of freshman in the secondary for much of the second half against the Pirates - but to their credit the Midshipmen have not used that as an excuse.
Barring an upset this week in South Bend - with the Irish looking to avenge losses to the Midshipmen the past two years and three of the last four - Navy is likely looking at a four or five-win season, its first losing season and first time it won't play in a bowl since 2002, Paul Johnson's first season. The Midshipmen have clearly been competitive with four of the losses by a total of eight points, and have had a couple of questionable calls go ahead them, but they haven't played a ranked team since the Gamecocks.
That shouldn't take Randy Edsall off the hook for the mess this season at Maryland. His team's last win came against Towson, which despite its remarkable turnaround has 20 less players on scholarship than the Terps and played its first game against Maryland without starting quarterback Grant Enders. The Terps blew a a big halftime lead at home to Clemson and were barely competitive against a Florida State team that dropped out of the top 10, then the Top 25 and finally out of sight after losing at home to Wake Forest. As injured and inexperienced as the Terps have been on defense, as we've heard all season in College Park, they have mostly looked clueless on offense, except for the first half against Clemson.
I am not taking Danny O'Brien off the hook, but how do you turn the reigning ACC rookie of the year -- perhaps the most talented quarterback in College Park since Boomer Esiason -- into a bench warmer by putting him in an offense that doesn't suit his abilities? Not to make comparisons -- well, okay, let's make just one -- but I distinctly remember how Ralph Friedgen and his offensive coordinators tweaked the playbook to bring out the strengths of average to above average college quarterbacks like Shaun Hill, Scott McBrien, Sam Hollenbach and Chris Turner rather than expose their weaknesses, as offensive coordinator Gary Crowton and Edsall have seemed to do O''Brien.
This wasteland is not suddenly going to turn around, as the Midshipmen did under Johnson in 2003 and the Terps did last season, when Maryland went from 2-10 to nearly playing for the ACC championship -- a few weeks before Friedgen was fired. But I have more faith that Navy will recover quicker than Maryland -- especially in light of what sophomore quarterback Trey Miller did in place of an injured Proctor Saturday. The Terps have a better chance this season of going from good to 3-8 than good to great, as athletic director Kevin Anderson promised when he replaced Friedgen with Edsall.
Not that the local area is totally devoid of competitive football this fall. For those interested in seeing a winner locally, head to Towson for Saturday night's game against Delaware. Or go follow undefeated Johns Hopkins when it plays Ursinas at Homewood Field.
But for those FBS snobs, you better clean up the man cave and get ready for Saturday's LSU-Alabama megatilt in Tuscaloosa. Or better yet, get in a good round of golf before winter. It's going to be a long one.