What: Maryland tries to rebound from a heartbreaking loss against Miami with a struggling Miami team
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
Where to Watch: ESPN3.com
Gameday weather: 66 and sunny
In a Turtleshell
Virginia Offense vs. Maryland Defense: Virginia's record is a little misleading toward their offense, which for the most part has been okay. They're second in the ACC in total yardage, second in passing offense, sixth in rushing offense, and fifth in scoring offense. The offensive line is solid, coming in at second in the ACC in tackles for loss allowed and sixth for sacks allowed. Marc Verica has been mostly solid. Keith Payne and Perry Jones have been a great duo at running back, Payne especially; he ran for 120 against Duke, was crucial in the Miami win, and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. Kris Burd is pretty underrated at WR, too.
So what's the hold-up? Well, for one, the turnovers flow pretty steadily. They ain't Miami and Jacory Harris, but they're close; they're tied for second-to-last in the ACC in turnover margin (ahead of, yes, just Miami) and Marc Verica has thrown as many interceptions (13) as he has touchdowns. A 1:1 ratio in that field is pretty poor.
I'm also a little doubtful of their ability to put up both points and yards against good defenses. They ran up 48 on VMI, Eastern Michigan, and Duke, plus 34 against Richmond. But they only managed 14 against USC and FSU, plus just 10 against UNC. Don't come in expecting world-beaters offensively here.
That said, outside of the occasionally turnover-prone quarterback, it's a decent unit. If Maryland's not ready, they'll be able to put up points. The key will probably be Verica's ability to avoid mistakes, which isn't an easy task against Kenny Tate; he threw three picks against Duke, which, along with their terrible defense, was the biggest reason for that loss.
Maryland Offense vs. Virginia Defense: About that defense...UVA is 11th in the ACC and 111th in the country in rushing yards allowed, just two yards ahead of where Wake Forest was. Virginia's struggled against the run all year; just last week they gave up over 230 yards to Duke and they haven't held a team under 140 yards on the ground since beating up on hapless VMI. Their front seven is inexperienced and undersized, and it's come back to hurt them. Considering some of the teams that they've played against - Jesus Christ, Eastern Michigan put up 290 yards on the ground against them - that's a pretty damning stat.
The strength of the defense comes in the passing game, where they're fourth in the conference and 23rd in the country. That's mostly thanks to two outstanding cornerbacks, Chase Minnifield and Ras-I Dowling. Dowling was a preseason All-ACC first-teamer and All-American second-teamer, while Minnifield leads the ACC and is second in the country in interceptions. Both have been grappling with injuries lately, but Dowling is fully healthy and Minnifield is probable. They're both playmakers that will punish any mistakes from Danny O'Brien and in general shut down wide receivers.
I'd expect to see more of Kevin Dorsey and Ronnie Tyler to avoid throwing Minnifield and Dowling, plus a solid dose of the ground game. Remember, though, UVA hasn't played a lot of good teams and, with the exception of Miami, lost to the ones they did play, so keep that in mind when looking at the stats.
Maryland's passing game really struggled against Miami and couldn't run; Virginia's D is a step down in both categories, plus overall athleticism, but is more than adequate against the pass. If Maryland can the run ball, expect no problems putting up points; that's how Duke put up 55 on them and how FSU put up 34. The problem, of course, is actually running the ball; Maryland's struggled all year, but did it well against comparable Wake Forest; the Terps had 260 rushing yards that day. They should be okay here.
Keys in Cliches:
- Establish the ground game. They give up 210 yards a game on the ground. Maryland's struggled to get their running game going, but they did it against Wake and, if they do it here, can control the game.
- Don't let Minnifield make plays. Chase Minnifield has seven interceptions on the year. Danny O'Brien has become increasingly human in terms of throwing interceptions. Today would be a nice day to avoid them.
- Limit Payne. The stats for UVA are solid, but they came against poor teams. My biggest worry isn't Marc Verica, but instead Payne: for one, the Hoos always have a random running back destroy Maryland (see: Simpson, Mikell; Jackson, Rashawn). He was also great the past two games and is probably the biggest threat to control the game for UVA.
- Kris Burd, WR, UVA: Burd is the Hoos' fourth-leading receiver and more productive in yardage than Torrey Smith. He's a playmaker and burner. Normally, I wouldn't be particularly concerned, but with Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes, who really knows what to expect?
- LaRoy Reynolds, LB, UVA: The Cavs' leading tackler, Reynolds has the best chance to stop the oncoming Terrapin rushing onslaught. He's undersized, but fast and has a nose for the ball.
- Da'Rel Scott, RB, Maryland: For once, Maryland should be able to open up some holes for DRS. He has speed that his more productive counterpart, Davin Meggett, doesn't possess. Considering UVA has given up the most amount of 30+-yard rushing gains, it's safe to say that there will be a big-play threat.
- Kenny Tate, CB, Maryland: Well, this is the default, but against Verica, he has a chance to get a few more big plays and hopefully an interception or two.