Photo courtesy of Mitch Leff/Rutgers athletics
One thing that college sports thrives on is rivalries. The mutual hatred of an opponent is truly what makes sports amazing.
For many schools, their rivalries come from their history with a program. For example, Notre Dame and Miami. Others come simply from being close to another school. USC and UCLA is a prime example.
Others are just made due to the fact that the teams are both competitive on a yearly basis, thus growing a mutual disdain of the other school. Examples of this instance comes in the form of Alabama and Clemson.
In the case of Rutgers and Maryland, one would expect at least two of the factors listed above to contribute to a rivalry, but there are no signs of the schools creating a rivalry with one another.
Ever since the teams entered the Big Ten together in 2014, fans have been expecting to see a Rutgers-Maryland rivalry. That has not been the case. The teams have not had many encounters with one another that hold a lot of significance.
Rutgers football has been laughable in the past few seasons. While Greg Schiano has begun to close the gap between the two, the teams are uneven on the football field. For the Terrapins, coach Mike Locksley has attempted to get a rivalry to brew between the two schools, but the teams are simply not built to be rivals with one another.
Why Doesn’t A Rivalry Exist Between the Schools?
Before the teams face off this weekend on the gridiron and on Monday in basketball, a question many fans wonder is why the Big Ten is repeatedly trying to force a rivalry between these two schools?
In defense of the Big Ten, it would be criminal not to have teams that are this close to one another on the map to try to have a rivalry. Teams like Ohio State and Penn State, who are roughly the same distance from one another that the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins are, have a budding, passionate rivalry.
As the schools were integrated into the Big Ten, the conference did not have any potential rivalries for the schools. Think of it like online dating. The Big Ten is the matchmaker. Rutgers and Maryland are the potential bachelors. There were no matches for the two, so the Big Ten decided to match them together in the hopes that the two rejects would be able to come together and make a rivalry on their own.
Unfortunately, like many experiences in online dating, this was not the case. The teams have little in common outside of the fact that they are both new to the conference and are on the eastern seaboard.
Comparing the Programs
Athletically, these teams are very different. Maryland is a basketball school to its core, having an elite women’s team, and a men’s team that is rather prestigious. Rutgers is a clear football school, and say what one will, but it has the longest history of college football in America. Piscataway is the birthplace of college football and Rutgers’ athletics department is built on the sport.
When these two teams collide, it is less of a rivalry and more of a general disliking of one another. The teams don’t really get into it, and the fans express a lack of enthusiasm for the rivalry between the schools. So why does the Big Ten keep shoving it down everyone’s throats?
The simple answer is money. It creates a pretty good amount of revenue when schools are as close as Rutgers and Maryland. A more complex answer is the fact that both teams have yet to really find their place in the Big Ten.
The schools are not particularly notable on a national level for any of the major sports. That makes it difficult to market a rivalry to a bigger, more established school. For example, it is difficult for the Big Ten to pitch a Michigan-Maryland rivalry because the teams are not necessarily on the same playing field in terms of either historic success or recent success.
The Byproduct of the Situation
Rivalries are all about balance. Ohio State and Michigan balance each other out. Not only are they close to each other geographically, but they are both established programs.
Maryland and Rutgers are not quite as successful. Therefore, it is tough to make them rivals with any of the big schools in the Big Ten.
In the case of Maryland, it has found a larger rivalry in the hands of Penn State. While the schools are not necessarily on the same level as far as play, they are both nearby to one another. Additionally, many Marylanders venture north to go to State College, and conversely, many Pennsylvanians go to Maryland.
With the teams in a similar spot, the Big Ten might get its wish after all. Both Maryland and Rutgers are both in the rebuilding phases with new coaches making great strides in recruitment.
Both Schiano and Locksley have changed the narrative around each of their respective schools. Nonetheless, it will take a few years of consistent improvement for both teams in order to be considered a big-time rivalry.
This Year’s Match-up
After having three of their last four games canceled, the Terrapins are looking to prove they are worthy of bowl consideration. They are competing for bowl eligibility which becomes more complicated as with a shorter season.
Projected to go to a bowl game, the Terps look to end the season on a winning note. Seniors Jake Funk, Johnny Jordan, and Antwaine Richardson will be captains for the game.
The biggest storyline for the game, though, will not be solely on Senior Day, but on quarterback play. Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, Tua’s younger brother, has had an up-and-down year so far. He has remained the starter the entire season, but the biggest question is what happens beyond this season.
Coach Locksley has done a tremendous job recruiting, specifically when it comes to offensive players. The Terps have a loaded quarterback room, and redshirt freshman Lance Legendre looks poised to compete for the job next season. The Terps are a team on the rise in the Big Ten, and the biggest question surrounding them will be who is under center.
On the other hand, Rutgers has been in a slump ever since a Week 1 victory against Michigan State. The future is most definitely brighter for the Scarlet Knights than it was one year ago. Stuck in the cellar of the Big Ten, the Scarlet Knights are looking to right the ship. They will look to reverse this course, and end the season on a high note.
For Rutgers, the recruiting class that is coming in will be the best one in recent years. The Scarlet Knights will try to prove that they are going to be a threat in the future. That begins with ruining Senior Day for the Terps.
In the end, though, Maryland will be playing for more, and that will prove to be key for the Terrapins. They will cement themselves as a team worthy of a bowl appearance and climb above .500.
Score Prediction: Maryland 31, Rutgers 17