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Terrapins aim to earn back respect

August 11, 2005|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Preseason rankings are like the stock market to University of Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.

You buy low and sell high.

"Like I've always said, it's not where we start, it's where we finish," said Friedgen on Monday at Maryland's annual media day festivities.

The Terrapins will be starting way back in the new Atlantic Coast Conference's pack when the season starts next month. After being picked to finish near the top for the last three years, Maryland finds itself pegged to be in the bottom half of the standings for 2005.

The ACC media voted for Maryland to finish ninth overall in the 12-team field and fifth in the North Division. That's far out of contention for the new ACC Championship game and a second Christmas at home without a bowl bid in the stocking. Most every football publication has Maryland picked to finish between seventh and 10th this season.

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"The last time we were picked this low, we won the conference," Friedgen said. "Even when we were rated higher, it wasn't where we started. It's where we finished. When I was in the NFL we (San Diego) were picked to finish 28th out of 28 teams and went to the Super Bowl. It's definitely motivation."

The Terps were considered a bunch of upstarts in Friedgen's first season in 2001. Maryland ran through the league to win the ACC title and went on to play in the Orange Bowl as part of the Bowl Champlonship Series. Maryland was ranked in The Associated Press' preseason poll the next three seasons, but won't be among the Top 25 after last year's 5-6 season.

Although Friedgen played it off, the low rating - and missing out on a bowl invitation - is being used to spur the Terps to make amends for last year.

In the middle of Terps' locker room is a sign which reads:

No Respect

College Football News - 7th

Sporting News - 7th

FoxSports.com - 8th

ACC Media Poll - 9th

Atholon Sports - 10th

Street & Smith - 10th

Earn your respect back

One day at a time

One game at a time

"We are usually always underrated," Maryland running back Mario Merrills said. "That's something we are used to around here. We don't take it personally. We use it as motivation to come out and practice hard and improve as a team. We are looking to come out and improve on our 5-6 record from last year."

Maryland has many holes to fill if it even considers making a run up the standings. The Terps have to establish a starting quarterback and find new feature running backs. They need for both lines to mature and steady a defense which lost the majority of its secondary.

Friedgen isn't counting out history repeating itself.

"(Defending ACC champion) Virginia Tech was picked to finish low last year," Friedgen said, laughing. "It just goes to show what kind of expertise you guys (in the media) have."

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