Wolverines ‘set the standard’ for the Big Ten

Maryland coach Mike Locksley met with the media on Tuesday afternoon to preview his program’s Big Ten opener against Michigan on Saturday afternoon.

The Terps have won five straight games dating back to Nov. 20, 2021, when the Wolverines dominated them in College Park en route to a Big Ten title. But they finished the 2021 season with a bowl victory and went a perfect 3-0 in non-conference play this fall, including a road win.

Here’s what Locksley said about the Michigan vs. Maryland game:

Opening statement on Michigan vs. Maryland:

We now shift our attention to conference play, and we open with the reigning conference champion on the road. An unbelievable opportunity for us as a program. I talked to our team yesterday a little bit about going up to Michigan, going up to Ann Arbor. We have nothing to lose. We’re going to face the reigning champ, and we’ll get a really, really good team.

They’re well coached. They’re one of the least-penalized teams — opposite of us. One of the least-penalized teams. They play a physical brand of football. They’ve got playmakers across the board on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, they lost a bunch of guys, but when you watch them in the first three games, they play very physical. They’ve got an exotic third-down package which tells us we’ve got to be very good on first and second downs in terms of keeping that blitz package off the field. And they’ve got a lot of new players coming in that really are playing hard, and I think they’ve taken on the personality of their coaches there.

… Leave caution to the wind and go up and try to play to the best of our ability and keep the game really tight and get it to the fourth quarter, and you never know what can happen.

On his memories of Maryland’s win at Michigan Stadium in 2014, when he served as offensive coordinator:

It’s a long time ago and I know it’s a great place, a great venue. A great place to go play a game. They’re one of the blue bloods in college football. I don’t remember a lot about that game. I do know that any time you can go to a place like Michigan and come away with a win — you have to give credit to the team we had in 2014, but there’s nobody on that team left in this locker room. I don’t think that will have any bearing on what will happen on Saturday.

… We are going to face the reigning Big Ten champion. To me, if you don’t get excited about that opportunity — I mean, that’s why you came to Maryland. To have this opportunity to play really good teams like Michigan. To me, they set the standard for our league and set the bar. We always talk about trying to close the gap on teams like that; this here affords us the opportunity to see where we fit.

On what he told his team about facing a top-five program like Michigan:

I asked them about grandma’s macaroni and cheese. I said, ‘When she makes it on Christmas, is it any better than when she makes it on a normal Sunday dinner?’ And they all said no. Her macaroni and cheese is great. It’s slamming. It’s unbelievable.

Well, who we play doesn’t change. It’s the consistency of how we prepare to play, which is what makes grandma’s macaroni and cheese good on Christmas Day or a regular Sunday after church.

I’ve tried to get us out of this mentality of riding a wave of emotions. Of, we prepare differently for Charlotte than we do Ohio State, or we prepare differently for Michigan than we do SMU, because that’s not the case as a football coach. We don’t go in and say, ‘Hey, it’s Michigan week. Let’s all of a sudden ramp up our intensity.’ Because that’s not how you go about building a winning program.

That’s something I learned along the way from some good experience down at Alabama: You learn to prepare consistently, the right way, and the product on Saturday tends to be really consistent.

On preparing to defend Michigan QB JJ McCarthy:

Their philosophy is they want to run the football. They have explosive playmakers on the perimeter. JJ is an explosive playmaker with his feet and his arm. They will feature the quarterback run because of that ability. They play to his strengths but he also has shown the propensity that when you commit to stop him as a runner, that he can take the shots that came off of the play-actions down the field, where they have talented receivers. The Bell kid, number 14 [Roman Wilson] — fast, fast player. AJ Henning. They’ve got a bunch of talented perimeter players.

When you put them on tape on offense, JJ is dynamic with his feet but also has the ability to throw the ball. But they do want to run the football. I expect them to line up — they had their way with us a year ago, and I think you’ll see a lot of some of the same. I just hope we play a little differently.

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