Sep 21, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback CJ Brown (16) runs for a gain past diving West Virginia Mountaineers lineman Eric Kinsey (45) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
The Teams: Maryland Terrapins (2-0) and West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1)
The Time: 12:00 pm EST
The Location: Byrd Stadium, College Park, Md.
The Coaches: Randy Edsall (4th year at Maryland, 15-24) and Dana Holgorsen (4th year at West Virginia, 22-18)
TV/Radio: 105.7 FM, Big Ten Network
The Maryland Terrapins path to 2-0 hasn’t necessarily been the prettiest to look at, but they come into this rivalry game on a winning streak. The Terrapins handily dispatched James Madison in week one 52-7 in a game against former Georgia Tech QB Vad Lee, but week two was what gave Maryland a little cause for concern. Maryland did manage to beat South Florida 24-17 on the road down in Tampa, but the fashion in which they won left a lot to be desired.
Six (nearly seven) turnovers and an offense that just couldn’t get it going all game put the Terps in the difficult spot of having to mount a comeback against a team that won two games last season and sported a backup QB as their starter. The Bulls gave Maryland a run for their money, and caused RB Brandon Ross to lose his starting gig after two fumbles killed the Terps drives. Meanwhile, QB C.J. Brown threw some pretty nasty looking interceptions early on and had a fumble of his own despite two solid throws to Marcus Leak that resulted in touchdowns.
But a win is a win, and anyone will take that over the alternative.
Meanwhile, West Virginia heads into the game with their eyes set on completing the sweep of the two Maryland football powers after annihilating Towson last weekend, 54-0. The Mountaineers essentially coasted to a victory against the Tigers as QB Clint Trickett completed 35-of-40 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns. The starters were out bythe fourth quarter, but even West Virginia’s second unit proved too dangerous for Towson.
The Mountaineers are feeling pretty confident about themselves after hanging with Alabama in a season opening 33-23 loss. It also helps that West Virginia is particularly focused with the knowledge that Maryland creamed them last year In Baltimore 37-0. But West Virginia’s going to need to prove that offense can score more than the defense gives up against Maryland, so let’s see if they can.
Biggest Storyline: Senior citizens
While some teams might be starting true freshmen at quarterback, the Maryland Terrapins and West Virginia Mountaineers each have QBs that might be on hover-rounds in a few years; C.J. Brown is a sixth year senior, while Clint Trickett is a fifth year senior. Jokes aside, these two QBs have one last shot to seal their legacies at their respective colleges, and they know it even if they aren’t saying so.
Both QBs entered the season with some pretty lofty expectations. Brown was expected to be the lead man in a Maryland offense loaded with talent, while Trickett was the heir apparent to Geno Smith after doing relatively well before a shoulder injury derailed his season last year. And while Trickett has been pretty great this year with 713 yards and 7 touchdowns (with a 75% completion percentage), Brown has had a few bumps through the first two games (312 yards passing, three TDs and two INTs).
Brown is a strong willed QB who wants to get things back on track, and he can do that not only his legs, but the help of everyone else’s. Brown has a tendency to do too much, but he’s got a running back stable that’s more than capable of doling out some damage to a Mountaineers defense suceptible to the run. Feed Wes Brown and Brandon Ross as many carries as they can handle and bait the WVU defense into pinching a bit. Doing that can help Brown hit some receivers that should presumably be a bit more open.
Trickett’s going to have to prove he can get the ball out early against a very underrated Maryland pass rush. He’s also going to need to be a bit more explosive, assuming Maryland’s offense gets back on track. WVU has been a dink and dunk offense so far, but that’s not what they’d like to be. Trickett hasn’t completed a pass further than 36 yards this year, so expect MD to test that.
Key player to look out for: WVU WR Kevin White
Kevin White may not be a household name yet, but he’s a very agile, big wide receiver who has the potential to really frustrate Maryland. At 6’3, White will tower over Will Likely, should he be tasked with guarding him. The scary part is that Likely is definitely the only corner with enough recovery to handle White’s ability to stop on a dime.
White can do a whole lot of things on the field, too; he’s not just a possession receiver or a deep threat. The Terps absolutely have to take away Trickett’s favorite target and stop him from getting the ball near the sidelines where he does so much damage. If not, that Mountaineers offense will click all afternoon long.
Maryland wins if…
They take care of the ball. Neither C.J. Brown or Ross could take care of the ball effectively against South Florida in an unacceptably bad performance, and they were lucky to come away with a win at all. Both players are way better than that, and they know it, so perhaps they come into this game more focused than they normally would.
For Brown, it comes down to playing his game. He’s not going to be the biggest deep threat QB, but with his receivers he doesn’t need to be. Brown can hit his guys in stride on eight to ten yard slants all day long as he did on his two TD passes to Leak against USF, and I expect him to against WVU. That should set up a few bootleg deep balls for Diggs and Long.
As for Ross, nothing focuses a guy more than the potential to lose his job for good. Even if he starts this week, expect a much better effort holding onto the ball as he comes in more focused than ever with Brown trying to nab the starting job. Ross did alright against WVU his past two seasons, and he should bring Maryland luck this weekend too.
As much as it pains me to say it, WVU seems like the team better equipped to win this game with the way they’re playing right now. Nothing about Maryland’s passing game against subpar teams has suggested to me they will be able to beat anyone through the air, and they may need to go there to keep up with WVU.
I think Maryland is the better team here, but I’m concerned about whether or not they’re playing better football. West Virginia is playing really well and connecting on a lot of intermediary passes, which Maryland has been giving up. The Terps probably drop this one, but it’s going to be close.