What: Two 2-0 border rivals renew their rivalry in Morgantown with an important game for both sides
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia
What the Bettors Are Saying: West Virginia -10
In a Turtleshell:
Maryland's Offense vs. West Virginia's Defense: The key may be who plays the most of the game for Maryland at QB. The run-focused Jamarr Robinson will start and supposedly play the majority of the game; Danny O'Brien, who essentially made his debut against Morgan State and threw three TDs, will see time throughout the game. I'm not sure which of the two really gives Maryland a better chance, but don't be surprised to see O'Brien play more than Robinson.
One of the reasons O'Brien may play more is because Maryland should have an opportunity in the passing game. West Virginia's starting CB and defensive star Brandon Hogan has been suspended indefinitely, leaving the duties to spectacular safety Robert Sands, unsteady corner Keith Tandy, and inexperienced Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller. Sands is concerning, but the secondary seems vulnerable on the surface. Plus, West Virginia hasn't been able to get a sack in the season yet, so Robinson's escapability may not be crucial.
Predicting which of the two gives Maryland a better shot is just about impossible. But regardless of who's at QB, there's a lot to like here. Hogan's suspension, the lack of a sack, and the absence of Pat Lazear, West Virginia's injured starting senior linebacker, paint an ugly picture. Marshall was able to gash WVU more than once last Friday, and Maryland should have a few chances to do the same.
West Virginia's Offense vs. Maryland's Defense: This is probably where the game will be made. Can Maryland at least contain Noel Devine and Tavon Austin? The two are electric in space, and Maryland was burnt a few times by Devine the last time the two played.
Unlike in the past, though, West Virginia has a serious passing presence this time around. Geno Smith, WVU's QB, has a strong, accurate arm and looks to pass before pulling the ball down. He's nothing like our old friend Pat White, but that may be a bad thing.
Let's face it: West Virginia's going to be a load to stop. Marshall did it with the help of an athletic, play-making linebacking corps (which Maryland may have) and a DL that was able to occasionally control the line of scrimmage (which Maryland probably doesn't have). Devine's a threat to score every time he touches the ball; to a lesser extent, so are Austin and wide receiver Jock Sanders. And Smith can actually throw the ball.
That said, this offense was incredibly stagnant for a solid 50 minutes against Marshall. Devine didn't have a ton of long runs, Smith was shaky, and Sanders and Austin were limited. It can be done. If Maryland has a shot at winning, it'll probably have to be done.
- Starting strongside LB Pat Lazear out, knee
- Backup LB Branko Busick out, hand
- Starting TE Tyler Urban out, knee
- Starting WR Bradley Starks probable, shoulder
- Backup DE Will Clarke doubtful, ankle
Keys in Cliches:
- Special teams difference-making. Maryland's special teams seems seriously loaded. Travis Baltz is the closest thing to a star a punter can come and is a solid kicker, Nick Ferrara may be on his way back, Torrey Smith is a proven kick returner, and Tony Logan looks like a ball of energy at punt returner. Even if Maryland has disadvantages elsewhere, they can win the special teams game.
- Contain big plays. As the old cliche goes, you can't stop them; you can only hope to contain them. That'll be Maryland's goal today; limit Devine and Austin to shorter runs and keep Smith from throwing bombs (which didn't really look like his game anyway).
- Take advantage of opportunities. I'd say a suspended starting CB and an injured starting linebacker are pretty big opportunities. Look at it this way: two of West Virginia's top three defensive players are out. Their replacements will make mistakes; that much is a given. The question will be if Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett, Jamarr Robinson, Torrey Smith, or Adrian Cannon can take advantage.
Players to Watch:
- Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: You already know about Devine, but Austin may be the killer. It'd be cliched, of course; a former Baltimore star at Dunbar HS, Austin ended up choosing WVU over Maryland. He's shifty and dangerous in the open field.
- Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia: Tandy went from #2 CB slipping down to #1 in a split second. He's struggled lately, and Torrey Smith will need to take advantage. Robert Sands, West Virginia's safety, is another option here.
- Ronnie Tyler, WR, Maryland: Cannon and Smith get easier match-ups too, but Tyler might be in the best position to take advantage of Hogan's absence. He'll probably get Pat Miller, who would normally only be on the field in a dime package; now, he's going up against a starter-level player.
- Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland: The best way to limit big plays is stop them before they can get started. Vellano's been a star so far, but he needs to come through in a huge game here and blow up a few plays in the backfield.