COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Maryland’s margin for error in its chase for a second consecutive bowl bid is gone.
The Terrapins (4-6, 2-5 Big Ten) have dropped five of their last six games entering Saturday’s trip to No. 22 Michigan State (7-3, 5-2), and will need to upset the Spartans to maintain their postseason hopes.
“Obviously our guys know, but what are we going to do? We have to worry about Michigan State,” coach DJ Durkin said Tuesday. “We have to worry about this game. We have to win two more. I don’t even know what that would do. It goes opposite of anything you want to talk about as a coach to play this game.”
It will be a daunting task to finish with a .500 record, and history is not on the Terrapins’ side.
Maryland hasn’t won its final two games in a regular season since 2003. It is also 0-12 against ranked Big Ten opponents since joining the conference in 2014, and must also face No. 13 Penn State on Nov. 25 in its conference finale in addition to this week’s trip to Michigan State.
The Terps could get some help with the return of sophomore Max Bortenschlager, who started six games in a row before missing last week’s 35-10 loss to Michigan because of injury. Walk-on Ryan Brand drew the start in place of Bortenschlager, becoming the fourth quarterback to start this season for Maryland.
Durkin did not definitively declare Bortenschlager as Maryland’s starter Saturday but did say he would start over Brand if he was available.
“I would anticipate he will be ready to go,” Durkin said.
Players brushed aside questions about bowl eligibility, insisting they were concentrating solely on Michigan State. The Spartans stumbled 48-3 at Ohio State and still harbors hopes of winning the Big Ten East.
“Michigan State is also coming off a loss,” defensive back Antoine Brooks Jr. said. “We’re both very hungry for this game.”
While Maryland is striving to inch closer to the six-victory plateau, it does have some recent success against the Spartans. The Terps earned a 28-17 triumph over Michigan State a year ago as the Spartans slid to 3-9.
That, as Maryland’s players quickly pointed out, was a different season.
“Yeah, we did beat them last year, but it was last year,” running back Ty Johnson said. “It does give us the edge that we played this team that’s still there. It definitely gives us a mental edge, but it’s a whole new team and they’re doing way better than they were doing last year.”