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Maryland-Wake Forest Preview: This Game Actually Matters

I'll be traveling tomorrow and Saturday, so the preview comes early this week. Sorry bout that. Hopefully I'll be back in time to make a game recap post, but no promises there. Heck, I'm just hoping to catch the game at all.

But enough about me: let's get to the game.

Wake Offense vs. Maryland Defense: Wake's offense revolves around Riley Skinner and a strong, consistent passing attack. Actually, they're one of the best in the country through the air. Skinner is usually mistake-free, and he has a strong, accurate arm. His main target is Marshall Williams, who has been stellar so far. He'll challenge Cameron Chism (at least, I hope it's Chism), and he's far better than any WR Maryland has seen so far (yes, even Jacoby Ford). So yeah, that doesn't look too good.

But there is hope: despite being experienced, Wake's line has been banged up and their weaknesses were evident against NCSt last week. It'll be up to the improving DL to get to Skinner and force mistakes, which Skinner does tend to make when pressured. Don Brown should be dialing up the blitz packages all day long.

Wake's rushing game has been below-average recently; if not for a 76 yard TD run, both their main backs - Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass - have had mediocre seasons statistically. Both are capable backs, Adams especially, so I'm not sure if they've been underachieving or if it's a result of the offensive line. Either way, though, this is a point of weakness in a pretty strong offense. Exploiting the offensive line and forcing the Deacs to run the ball is the way to win this one. Of course, that's easier said than done.

Maryland Offense vs. Wake Defense: So far, the Deacs have been less than impressive on defense. They aren't hemorraging yards, and they've played a lot of quality opponents, but they aren't as good on D as they are on the offensive side of the ball. They're especially vulnerable through the air, which is a good sign for a team that doesn't have their star running back.

Wake does have a young but solid corner in redshirt freshman Kenny Okoro, who has only made one start but is leading the team in interceptions. He, though, like Chism, is vulnerable to mistakes just like any other young corner, and there isn't a shutdown back in the secondary. Brandon Ghee, the other starting CB, is leading the team in tackles, but that's not a good thing; that means he gets picked on...a lot.

Also, their defensive line seems to be below average, at least against who they've played. There's not an impact player among the bunch (maybe Boo Robinson...maybe), and they're one of the worst teams in the country in both sacks and tackle for loss.

That, combined with the poor passing stats, leads one to believe that the problem on defense lies more on the line than in the secondary (though, as I'm still yet to see a game, I'm not sure how right that is). Because Maryland is without Bruce Campbell, this area won't be an advantage for Maryland, but it shouldn't be a big weakness.

Of course, Maryland is probably even more one-dimensional than the Demon Deacons, so selling out against the pass is a definite possibility and could really hamstring Maryland unless Davin Meggett or Gary Douglas step up.

Players to Watch:

  • Riley Skinner, WF, QB - Kind of obvious, but Skinner is a vet and a winner. Wake should have a shot in every single game as long as he's around.
  • Marshall Williams, WF, WR - Wake's top receiver, he's one of the more complete wideouts in the conference. He will be a big challenge for whomever Maryland throws up against him.
  • Kenny Okoro, WF, CB - He's a playmaker, but a young one. I expect Adrian Cannon to be matched up with him, so Maryland shoud push him and force him into a mistake.
  • Hunter Haynes, WF, LB - Wake's best linebacker, Haynes really needs to step up his game and be a solidifying presence in a weak Wake defense. Also, he's amazingly good in NCAA10.
  • Chris Turner, UMD, QB - Turner has to be mistake-free on Saturday. Maryland has absolutely no ground game to fall back on, so he's got to be great.
  • Gary Douglas, UMD, RB - Yeah, Davin Meggett is starting, but I'm very eager to see Douglas, who has looked good in limited time. He might be the key to replacing Da'Rel Scott.
  • Jamari McCollough, UMD, S - Wake will be testing Cameron Chism and Anthony Wiseman deep all game long. They will get beaten eventually, and McCollough will have to clean up the mess.
  • Demetrius Hartsfield, UMD, LB - If Brown unleashes the beast that is Hartsfield, he could have a very good day against a Wake offensive line that's been having injury trouble and position-switching the last couple games.

Prediction: Maryland is good enough to win, and you'd like to think they will. But you can feel it on this one: coming off an emotional win, going to an away game, conference implications...I hope I'm wrong, but I feel a big loss on the horizon. Wake 31, Maryland 14.