9/22/12 at West Virginia
The school whose reputation as the best party school will be anything but when the Terrapins head to Morgantown to face off against their yearly grudge match opponent. The Mountaineers should come in as one of the most high octane offenses in the nation led by Geno Smith, so defeating them means the Terrapins will have to match that output. Unfortunately, that is going to be a tall order given that the Terps just lost their starting quarterback, and now have to rely on freshmen to guide them.
This is actually one of the more historic rivalries in college football, and I say historic and not intense or bitter because the two teams first faced off against one another in 1919 (a 27-0 West Virginia shutout). Since then, the Terrapins have played them 47 more times, with West Virginia holding the series lead 25-21 overall (there have been two ties), thanks to six straight W’s. Maryland hasn’t won since 2004 in the Gator Bowl, where they upset West Virginia 41-7. Since then, West Virginia has largely destroyed Maryland, outscoring them 194-121 in the six victories.
Why Maryland Could Win
Despite the game being in Morgantown, West Virginia, the Terrapins have won just as many games against West Virginia on the road as they have at home. The setting, therefore, isn’t necessarily conducive to winning the game, and that might be a plus for Maryland. They’ve lose six in a row in home games, and six in a row on road games. This match is decided, on the whole, by who shows up on that specific day.
A more tangible reason why they could win this game? Maryland is expected to have a very good, run-heavy offense and West Virginia has some very serious question marks heading into the season at linebacker and defensive line. The majority of their talented players on defense were seniors last season. Naje Goode, their starting ILB last season, has moved on to the NFL, and with him he takes his 87 tackles (of which 14 were for a loss). He was their best starter, and now he is gone and in his place is a big time hole. Not only that, but the Mountaineers also lost seniors Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller up front, which means that you can subtract 25 combined tackles from that roster right off the bat. Those losses are going to hurt West Virginia, and there is a chance they could get run all over.
Speaking of running, there are serious concerns in Morgantown about whether or not Dustin Garrison, the Mountaineers leading rusher last season with 777 yards and 6 TDs, is even healthy enough to play. Reports are that he may medical redshirt, which is terrible news for West Virginia. That would leave them with a bruiser, red zone back in Shawne Alston (who had 12 TDs last year but only 416 yards) to carry the load. He’s a big boy, and I am not anywhere near sure that he is capable of providing a consistent running effort from them. That would leave their offense one dimensional and allow Maryland to potentially use zone coverage to marginalize those receivers.
This team is expected to be worse on defense than last year, and last year’s team gave up 49 points to a Syracuse squad that finished 5-7 on the year. Granted, that team had Ryan Nassib throwing the ball, but it’s not like he’s the best quarterback in the nation. If the Terrapins can control the clock and make life tough for Geno Smith and Co. by forcing them to be one dimensional, there’s no reason why they can’t win this.
Why Maryland Might Not Win
I can give you five reasons:
1.) Geno Smith
2.) Smith, Geno
3.) Eugene Smith
4.) Tavon Austin
5.) Stedman Bailey
That offense is just a nightmare to match up against. Even if you have two shut down corners (which Maryland doesn’t have) it’s hard to stop Geno Smith. He is the real deal at quarterback, and unless you can apply consistent pressure on him he is going to eat you alive. Last season, he tossed 31 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions for 4,385 yards. It’s obviously hard to get better than that, which is the scariest part about him because he’s almost certain to improve. And with a running game that could be without leading rusher Dustin Garrison for a lot of the season, West Virginia is going to have to rely on Smith even more. No, this isn’t your Pat White WVU quarterback; this is a pocket passer with a very good arm who completes a high percentage of his passes. Maryland doesn’t get to the quarterback well, and that is going to be a big time problem.
As for the wide receivers, no big deal, really. Except for the All-American with 101 catches in Tavon Austin, the 12 TDs last year for Stedman Bailey, and Ivan McCartney’s 585 yards and 3 touchdowns. That receiving core is nearly impossible to cover, and Maryland is going to have an incredibly hard time keeping the ball out of their hands. They are versatile and have good size, with a receiver who can outrun your corners, a receiver who can go across the middle, and a receiver who can do all that and catch touchdown passes. Stedman Bailey averaged a whopping 17.8 yards per catch, and his big play potential is horrible news for a Maryland team that has historically been very prone to giving up big plays.
Put all that together and it spells L.