Maryland-Virginia preview: Can Terps bounce back for rivalry win?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland looks to recover from a tough blowout loss against a Virginia team that has struggled.

Maryland takes on Virginia this weekend, and while it is a rivalry game, I have a feeling the comments section won't be as...crowded as last week.

Recent history between these two teams has been odd, as the road team has won the last four contests (and Virginia hasn't lost at Byrd since 2005). This Cavaliers team, however, is frankly just not very good -- after an impressive opening win to BYU and getting blown out by Oregon (as one does), the Cavaliers blew out a very bad VMI team before being beaten soundly by Pitt and Ball State. The Cardinals are a good MAC team and Pitt is 3-1, but neither have anywhere near the talent that Virginia does, and for whatever reason Mike London's squad seems unable to put it all together.

Let's run the matchup down, unit by unit.

Maryland offensive line vs. Virginia defensive line:

The Terrapins' front unit was manhandled against Florida State, so let's take a look and see how the Cavaliers' line stacks up.

The two stars for Virginia up front are Eli Harold (6'4", 230) and Brent Urban (6'7", 295), while Jake Snyder (6'4", 270) and former Maryland target David Dean (6'1", 290) also start. While Harold (3.5 sacks) and Urban (seven tackles for a loss, eight passes broken up) will make plays in the backfield, this unit does not create nearly as many matchup problems as Florida State did last weekend, especially when it comes to size.

That being said, Harold and Urban (especially Urban) have been playing some fantastic football this year, and until Maryland's offensive line proves otherwise, it's hard to give them this category.

Advantage: Virginia.

Maryland defensive line vs. Virginia offensive line:

The Cavaliers have struggled on the offensive line this season, but have some big talents, led by left tackle Morgan Moses (6'6", 325 and a legitimate NFL prospect). Virginia's only other senior on the line is left guard Luke Bowanko (6'6", 300), and they start sophomores at center and right guard and a freshman at right tackle.

Darius Kilgo has continued to dominate on the inside, but Quinton Jefferson and Keith Bowers have been relatively quiet in recent weeks. The return of Zeke Riser should strengthen the unit, as should the move of Andre Monroe to the inside, where he found success against Florida State.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland rushing offense vs. Virginia front seven:

The Terps couldn't get anything going against Florida State, but especially struggled on the ground, averaging just 1.3 yards per carry. If C.J. Brown can't play, Maryland's ground game is further hampered -- Rowe isn't exactly a scramble threat and it would likely take the zone read almost entirely out of their gameplan.

That being said, the Terps do have two very talented rushers in Brandon Ross and Albert Reid, and a freshman who continues to impress in Jacquille Veii.

The Cavaliers start three linebackers -- freshman converted tight end Max Valles, junior Henry Coley and junior Daquan Romero. Valles is quick off the edge, and has two-and-a-half sacks this year, but the stars are Coley (36 tackles) and Romero (team-high 39 tackles) who provide consistency in the front seven and should provide a strong counter to Maryland's running game.

Advantage: Toss-up.

Maryland front seven vs. Virginia rushing offense:

The usually-strong linebacking unit didn't have a very good game against the Seminoles, breaking through the Florida State offensive line occasionally only to be tossed away by the Wee Baby Jameis and his incredible torso strength.

Running the ball is something the Cavaliers do quite well, and if they can focus their efforts on the ground offensively and remain successful enough that the play-action pass can score, they can put up some points on Saturday. Starter Kevin Parks is a pinball of a running back (5'8", 205) who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has been a consistent presence for Virginia for three years. Khalek Shepherd is more of a speedy option, and is averaging 7.5 yards per carry on just 19 attempts.

Advantage: Virginia.

Maryland receivers vs. Virginia secondary:

Both Stefon Diggs and Deon Long have had their struggles in recent games, but they should see more of the ball against a Virginia secondary missing their main star.

Demetrious Nicholson will not play due to an injury, and the Cavaliers will greatly miss the junior, who has broken up four passes this year and has three career interceptions. He was named to multiple preseason all-conference teams, and the former four-star prospect may be replaced a freshman -- either Tim Harris or Divante Walker.

On the other side at cornerback is Maurice Canady, who has 29 tackles and two passes broken up. At safety, the Cavaliers start Anthony Harris (two interceptions, one fumble forced, one punt blocked) and former Maryland target Brandon Phelps (14 tackles).

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland secondary vs. Virginia receivers:

The Terrapins' McDougle- and Johnson-less secondary was certainly exposed by a hungry Jameis Winston and a deep Seminole receiving corps last week, but Will Likely and co. will likely have an easier time against a Cavalier group that has struggled.

How much have they struggled? The starters listed this week are Keon Johnson (three career receptions), Kyle Dockins (zero career receptions) and Miles Gooch (one career reception).

Now, the Cavaliers do have actual factual wide receivers that have caught actual factual passes -- Tim Smith (11 receptions, 142 yards) and former Maryland target Darius Jennings (14 catches, 107 yards) -- but this is a unit in trouble.

Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland quarterback vs. Virginia quarterback:

C.J. Brown may not play, and while Caleb Rowe has shown that he has a powerful arm, he isn't exactly proven on the field.

For the Virginia side of things, David Watford has been frankly terrible. After averaging 4.7 yards per attempt with three touchdowns against four interceptions in 2011, he's somehow gotten worse, averaging 4.8 yards per attempt with three touchdowns against seven interceptions. He's been hailed as a dual-threat, but is averaging 2.3 yards per rush (thanks in part to the poor play of UVA's offensive line).

Advantage: Toss-up.

Maryland special teams vs. Virginia special teams:

The Terps have been strong on special teams this year -- Nate Renfro has punted well, Brad Craddock has improved leaps and bounds and they have multiple threats in the return game. Virginia? Not so much. Alec Vozenilek has done a fine job punting, at 42.5 yards per kick and Vozenilek and Ian Frye have combined for five of six field goals made, but Virginia has done a poor job returning kicks.

Advantage: Maryland.

Overall impressions and final tally

Final: Maryland, 4-2-2.

Another note? Virginia is a really, really poorly-coached team, with key penalties hampering them at nearly every turn. Maryland ranks eighth in the nation in penalty yardage, with just 31.6 per game, while Virginia is all the way down at 83rd, averaging 55.6 per game.

Our prediction: Maryland 27, Virginia 13.

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