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Maryland can't afford to look past James Madison

(AP Photo/Gail Burton, File)

By DAVID GINSBURG

AP Sports Writer

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) Before Maryland can start thinking about facing Big Ten competition, the Terrapins first must get through their non-conference schedule - beginning with Saturday's home game against James Madison.

After playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference since 1953, Maryland is about to embark on its first season in the Big Ten. But league play doesn't begin until late September, so it's up to coach Randy Edsall to keep his players from looking ahead.

"Everybody wants to talk about the fifth game or the sixth game, but we've got to play Game One," Edsall said. "That's the challenge you have as a coach when you're dealing with 17- to 22-year-olds. This game on Saturday against JMU counts as much as the sixth, seventh, eighth game. You only get 12 of them, with the opportunity to play 13 or more."

After James Madison, the Terrapins face South Florida, West Virginia and Syracuse.

But that's getting ahead of the game. Right now, the only team Maryland need be concerned with is James Madison, a Football Championship Subdivision team with high aspirations.

The Dukes have a new coach, Everett Withers, who was head coach at North Carolina in 2011 and defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2012-13.

"It's always difficult when you play a first-year head coach," Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said. "For me, it's just about looking at their tape and seeing where their coaches come from. Our biggest opponent going into game one is ourselves."

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Here are some things to look for when James Madison faces Maryland:

BROTHERLY LOVE: Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown's little brother is defensive back Jordan Brown. "I just hope C.J. has been careful with what he's been texting his brother, and I hope his brother kind of slipped up a little bit and gave the older brother some information that might be able to help us," Edsall said with a grin. C.J. said: "There aren't many times you get to go against your brother, especially at this level, so I'm looking forward to it. We'll wish each other good luck before the game and see each other afterward." In addition, Terps defensive back Daniel Ezeagwu's twin brother David plays linebacker for the Dukes.

PAST PERFORMANCES: If the past means anything, this could be a close game. In 1998, James Madison lost 23-15 at Maryland. In 2009, one year before Edsall's arrival, the Dukes took the Terrapins to overtime before falling 38-35. "I spoke to our team about that and let them know they are a very good football team," Edsall said. "They're a talented team. I believe they have 10 transfers from FBS schools, seven on offense and three on defense. They have a quarterback (Vad Lee) who was a starter in the ACC." C.J. Brown said, "They're going to come in here with a chip on their shoulder, wanting to prove the world wrong, just like they did a few years ago against Virginia Tech" in a 21-16 upset in 2010.

FAMILIAR FOE: Two of JMU's transfers came from Maryland, and both seniors hope to play a key role on Saturday. Jeremiah Wilson starts at right cornerback for the Dukes and Titus Hill will serve as a backup linebacker. C.J. Brown, who used to compete against the duo in practice, said, "Going up against those familiar faces will be different - and the same."

RESPECT: Edsall is 13-24 at Maryland in three seasons, but the Terps reached the Military Bowl last season and appear to be on the rise. "I have a whole lot of respect for Randy Edsall and what he's done for the program," Withers said. "You look at where they are now, they've got a ton of talent. People talk about Maryland going into the Big Ten and struggling. I don't see that. I see Maryland having a chance, if healthy, of having success in the Big Ten."

FOR OPENERS: Maryland has won four straight openers and nine of 10. Edsall is 10-5 in his career and has won 10 of the last 11. The Dukes are 22-18-1 in season openers, 17-17 since moving to FCS. JMU is 0-10 against FBS foes in openers.

Updated August 29, 2014

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