Maryland follows up the marquee win over Miami from two weeks ago with another chance for a big win in the national spotlight, facing off against Big East rivals West Virginia Saturday afternoon. Let’s run down the game, unit by unit.
Maryland Passing Offense vs. West Virginia Passing Defense - Just two days ago, this would have been a completely different story. Maryland has the twelfth-ranked passing offense in the country (albeit in a smaller sample size), while West Virginia has the 25th best passing defense in the nation. After the suspensions of Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler, however, the Terps are down two of their top three receivers. It remains to be seen who will replace them, but Adrian Coxson, Kerry Boykins and tight end Matt Furstenburg will be asked to pick up much of the slack.
For the Mountaineers, they graduated their two starting safeties from last season, but still return two great ends in Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin as well as cornerback Keith Tandy, who Bill Connelly of SB Nation called “ridiculously good”. Advantage: West Virginia.
Maryland Rushing Offense vs. West Virginia Rushing Defense:
The rushing situation for Maryland is the opposite of that of the passing game. While they didn’t perform as well against Miami (61st in the nation), they bring back goalline back D.J. Adams, who was suspended against the Hurricanes. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are ranked 24th in the nation in stopping the run (keep in mind they did play against Marshall and Norfolk State to start off the season). Up the middle are Scooter Berry at nose tackle and middle linebacker Najee Goode, but West Virginia lacks depth all over the defense. With Adams and playmakers Davin Meggett and Justus Pickett, Maryland should be fine on the ground. Advantage: Maryland.
West Virginia Passing Offense vs. Maryland Passing Defense:
It’s a Dana Holgorsen offense, so you know there’s going to be a lot of yards, especially through the air. The Mountaineers currently rank 15th in the nation in passing offense, while Maryland is 47th on defense.
Geno Smith has had a very good start to the year (620 yards on 46/69 passing, six touchdowns, no interceptions), and he has four different receivers with over 100 yards this year and six different receivers who have caught a touchdown pass, including the always-dynamic Tavon Austin.
Meanwhile, Maryland had trouble containing Stephen Morris against Miami, getting lucky with some big plays. Cameron Chism made two huge plays, but Dexter McDougle, Eric Franklin, and Matt Robinson all need to improve for the Terps to do well against this explosive offense. Advantage: West Virginia.
West Virginia Rushing Offense vs. Maryland Rushing Defense:
West Virginia has only run for 144 yards on 59 carries (a 2.4 average) with three touchdowns. In two games that were blowouts. Um, that’s not good, guys. Meanwhile, Maryland has one of the top interior defensive lines in the conference with Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, and a great linebacking corps with Demetrius Hartsfield and Darin Drakeford (although the Kenny Tate experiment needs to get sorted out). Regardless, Advantage: Maryland.
So, we’ve got two for each team. Much closer than I thought. Regardless, with the recent suspensions and the high-powered offense of Dana Holgorsen, it’s hard to see Maryland coming out with this one. It’s going to be closer than many predict, but I’m thinking a 38-34 West Virginia victory. Prove me wrong, Terps.