Ahmed Ghafir is the founder and publisher of Inside the Black and Gold, an independent fan site covering everything Maryland athletics. Now in year three, they’re your one-stop shop on the latest Terps news. This is the first time I’ve ever met a Maryland fan and he seems like a pretty good guy. You can follow him on Twitter at @InsideBlackGold.
1. What are Maryland fans’ first thoughts of Auburn football right now?
I think some see similarities to Maryland—a handful of big games that Auburn was close to pulling off, but struggled to complete it in a “what-if” season. As for Maryland’s bowl opponent, there’s excitement that the Terps get a chance to play an SEC squad for the first time in 20 years, and playing a program that had ties to Maryland over the offseason adds to that.
AThe word was Auburn was the school after Taulia Tagovailoa last spring before Hugh Freeze turned to Payton Thorne in the portal. And no, Thorne does not scare a single Maryland fan.
2. What’s the vibe like in College Park for this football team or is it basketball season?
It is most definitely not basketball season…yet. The “what-if” for football very much applies after Maryland had a chance to secure a nine-win season, something that doesn’t happen much around College Park. The news of Taulia Tagovailoa opting out was a gut punch to Maryland’s outlook, and news of him considering the portal certainly didn’t help.
Nonetheless, there’s excitement to see what the two new quarterbacks—Billy Edwards Jr and Cam Edge—can showcase in a larger sample size against Auburn. Locksley has repeatedly cited bowl games as a preview for next season, and the quarterback room is a perfect example of that with a looming QB competition.
3. Is there any letdown for the game after Little Tua decided to leave his team?
He has a name. It is Taulia. All jokes aside, there’s disappointment but understanding because that decision wasn’t directly Taulia’s decision, but his family’s decision. But it goes back to the point about the quarterbacks.
Inside the building, there’s a lot of confidence in Billy Edwards Jr to make the right plays within the offense while Cam Edge has down well picking up the offense and become the clear challenger to Edwards. I wouldn’t say letdown is the word, cautious optimism better describes the vibe.
4. Who are your two most favorite Auburn Tigers of all time and why?
Cam Newton and Stephen Davis. How can you hate on Auburn Cam? And I’m a former Washington fan. Stephen Davis and Mike Sellers were the first two NFL players I watched as a kid. Davis was that dude for the [insert redacted name here].
5. Name two Terps that Auburn fans should lookout for.
Tai Felton on offense. He has big play ability with his speed and has done well taking advantage of his opportunities this season. How Maryland’s deep ball fares on Saturday will be interesting, but getting Felton the ball in space is equally as dangerous with near-unrivaled top end speed against opposing defenses.
Keep an eye on Beau Brade on defense, the veteran safety who could suit up in his last game at Maryland. Hard-hitting safety who has led the defense over the last two seasons in tackles, and with Thorne virtually no threat to throw the ball, Brade inside the box could be the move. I wouldn’t be surprised if you hear the name Glen Miller making a big hit, either.
6. Name two Auburn Tigers that scare you the most.
Jarquez Hunter. Maryland has had struggles against the run at times this year, but Hunter will be another challenge for the front seven. If Maryland can hold Hunter under their season ypc (3.5), then I like Maryland’s chances of outlasting Auburn’s offense.
Eugene Asante on defense. He’s a dog in the front seven and against a Maryland team that I question will establish a consistent vertical threat against the Tigers, Asante could be someone who can flourish against Maryland’s protection. The OL has held up at times this year, but has been subpar in run protection. Asante, who once considered Maryland before landing at Auburn out of the portal, feels like the candidate to have a standout game.
7. Where do you see each team having an advantage over the other?
I think Maryland’s defense will make Auburn completely one dimensional even with young playmakers stepping into the secondary. I trust Maryland’s defense to find ways to disrupt Thorne in the pocket with a depleted Auburn WR room.
On the other side, Auburn’s secondary has some firepower to matchup against a Maryland offense with multiple playmakers. Kaden Prather serves as a downfield threat while Jeshaun Jones is the most complete, versatile WR in Maryland’s room. For multiple guys with NFL aspirations, we could see some intriguing matchups between Maryland’s WR and Auburn’s secondary.
8. What’s your analysis and score prediction for this game?
Auburn, 24-16. Maryland will roll with multiple QBs as they look to see what they have at the position. I do think Maryland’s skill players will be able to break off a few big runs. I also think Auburn feeds Jarquez. Maryland has done well limiting big plays against guys like Blake Corum this season, but whether they do so for 60 minutes is the question. But I do think Auburn hangs on in the Under Armour Bowl.
9. Who wins the next football national championship first? Auburn or Maryland? Now do basketball.
Auburn for football, Maryland for basketball… but I could easily be convinced Auburn is the answer for both. Basketball *should* be closer, but I’m not sure it’s entirely more realistic than football winning one at this point. Then again, what does the national championship even look like in five years?
10. It’s spelled TerrApins, so Terps doesn’t make sense. Just FYI. Also, I hate the Ravens.
The Auburn Tigers, but it’s war damn eagle? I know education and the state of Alabama don’t always go hand in hand, but pick one.
And with all this smack talk, we might have to phone a friend at UA and relegate Auburn to a Puma sponsorship by Sunday morning.