COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- If Maryland defeats Wake Forest on Saturday, the Terrapins will have enough wins to qualify for a bowl bid -- no small accomplishment for a team that totaled six victories over the past two seasons.
Maryland (5-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) is off to its best start since 2001. In spite of a 63-0 defeat at Florida State two weeks ago, the Terrapins are on the brink of achieving one of their main objectives in coach Randy Edsall's third season at the school. Edsall is a Susquehannock High School graduate.
"Being bowl-eligible is a goal of ours, something we want to do every year," center Sal Conaboy said Tuesday. "To get this win would be huge for us. Cross it off the list and move on."
The point is, it's early enough in the season for the improved Terrapins to look beyond simply qualifying for postseason play.
"Every win after that, a better bowl, an opportunity to keep getting better," quarterback C.J. Brown said. "It's a big week for us as a team."
Brown sustained a concussion at Florida State and missed last week's 27-26 win over Virginia. Caleb Rowe filled in amply at quarterback, but Brown is more of a dual threat because of his ability to run. He's been cleared to play and will start at Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2).
"C.J. obviously adds another dynamic to the offense," Conaboy said.
Brown missed all of the 2012 season with a torn knee ligament, so sitting out a week was a relative breeze.
"It flew by," Brown said. "I was doing stuff during practice. I was still involved, felt sharp."
Maryland went 2-10 in Edsall's first season and 4-8 last year. Now, here they stand, poised to be 6-1 with three home games left on the schedule.
"It really does speak to how much we've improved and how hard guys are working to get where we want to go," Conaboy said.
Getting win No. 6 would be important, but why stop there?
"That's just one of our goals," defensive end Zeke Riser said. "There's a lot we want to accomplish."
This will likely be Maryland's last game against Wake Forest for the foreseeable future because the Terrapins will move to the Big Ten next year. Maryland leads the series 43-17-1, but the home team has won the last six games and the Terrapins have one ACC road win in the last two years.
That is of little significance to this year's squad.
"Anytime you're on the road it's going to be tough," Brown said. "We haven't had very much success, but each year's a different year. We have all the confidence in the world."
Edsall was asked repeatedly Tuesday whether becoming bowl-eligible was significant, and if served notice that Maryland has turned the corner under his direction. He opted to reserve judgment until more information was acquired.
"I really don't really want to talk about the season until it's over," he said. "We're only halfway through our games. All we're trying to do is get a win each week. My whole opinion is we're going to judge the season based on its entirety."
Still, it's almost impossible to ignore the comparison between this season and the two that preceded it.
"Coming off six wins the past two seasons, getting six wins this season would be a huge feat," Riser said. "It will be nice for the seniors who have been here for so long to get those guys to a bowl game."