The Teams: West Virginia Mountaineers (2-1) vs Maryland Terrapins (3-0)
The Site: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore, Maryland
The Time : 3:30 p.m.
TV, Radio: ESPNU, ESPN 980
Tickets: Tickets starting at $40.
Coaches: Randy Edsall (9-18, third season as the Maryland head coach) and Dana Holgorsen (19-10, third season at West Virginia)
History: West Virginia leads the all-time series 26-21-2. West Virginia is coming in with the longest winning streak in the series, taking seven straight since the 2004 Gator Bowl (which the Terps came out on top 41-7). In 2012, the Terps came into Morgantown and gave the Mountaineers a scare after slowing down Geno Smith and the Mountaineers explosive offense. In the end, West Virginia came out on top 31-21 and this is the first time since 2005 that West Virginia is coming into the game unranked.
Meeting the Opposition: West Virginia has started the season in disappointing fashion. After Ford Childress was tapped as the starting quarterback last week, the offense had a little more cohesion. There was little competition as the Mountaineers romped Georgia State 41-7. The offense has weapons, such as sophomore Ronald Carswell and freshman Daikiel Shorts, who can stretch the field. Their running game is quite effective with running backs Charles Sims and Dreamius Smith averaging 5.6 and 6.6 yards-per-carry respectively..
However, the chemistry among Childress and his weapons will certainly make or break this offense. On defense, Holgorsen announced on Tuesday that senior cornerback Brodrick Jenkins has left the team, deferring to comment any further. Nonetheless, this team will go up against a mediocre defense that ranks 31st in total yards allowed, but 87th in rushing yards allowed. It’ll be up to the secondary to contain the receivers, but juniors Travis Bell and Ishmael Banks have the ability to do so. With so many offensive weapons, the whole defense must step up.
Key Questions and Storylines?
1.) Does the Maryland secondary have enough to stop West Virginia’s pass-offense?
After Edsall announced Sunday that senior cornerback Dexter McDougle would miss the remainder of the regular season, the Terps must now play without their top two cornerbacks for an extended period of time. Enter Will Likely and Isaac Goins to try and fill the void. Likely and Goins have both had a considerable amount of playing time recently with cornerback Jeremiah Johnson also out for the majority of the regular season. Edsall has praised Likely, most recently resembling his game to “a seasoned-veteran.” That is certainly good news as Maryland must prove that it is able to defend the pass because if not, West Virginia will exploit the Terps down the field. A lot can be said about the Maryland blitzing scheme, so if the Terps are able to put pressure on Childress, then the defense may force some bad decisions, throwing the offense out of sync.
2.) Does West Virginia have the chemistry on offense to match Maryland’s offense?
Childress is coming off of his first career start at the helm of the Mountaineers offense. As the offense appeared to play well, it should be noted that they also did play Georgia State. As the level of competition increases, West Virginia’s offense will certainly rest on the shoulders of the freshman quarterback. If Childress gives the Maryland front seven an extended period of time, it will be a long day for the Mountaineers. West Virginia does have plenty of talented wide receivers including Carswell, Shorts, and Ivan McCartney already topping the century mark in receiving yards this season. With the Mountaineers spread offense, Sims may also have large holes to run through, so Maryland’s front seven will have to be on their toes.
3.) Maryland’s run game versus West Virginia run defense
West Virginia ranks 87th in the nation against the run, giving up just over 184 yards a game. With quarterback C.J. Brown’s running ability, the read option will be key in this game. Everyone knows that Maryland’s receivers can break a run on any given play. By opening up the threat for a pass, Brown and running back Brandon Ross will have clear skies if executed correctly. I expect Brown to have a field day and Ross could also continue his stellar play.
4.) Stefon Diggs and Deon Long
The run game will not have the success it should if the receivers do not step up. Diggs has played extraordinary through three games, but Long has had some costly drops. If Long can play at the same level as Diggs, which he is certainly capable of doing, then Maryland’s playbook opens up that much more. However, Long hasn’t seen the same amount of balls thrown his way as Diggs. Long is going to need to make the most of his opportunities and this would be the perfect game to do it.
Terps will win if: The Maryland secondary steps up and plays tight coverage throughout the game. West Virginia is trying to find their groove. By throwing the Mountaineers offense out of sync early, the Terps will gain momentum and force West Virginia’s defense to stay on the field to try to stop the lethal Maryland offense.
Terps will lose if: Will Likely and Isaac Goins fail to contain West Virginia’s wide receivers. This is the matchup of the game. Even if Maryland’s secondary fails, the Terps offense has the ability to put up points as well. But it will be a lot closer of a game than Terps fans will want.
Prediction: 34-24 Terps