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Behind Enemy Lines: Talking With Smoking Musket About Maryland - West Virginia

Dr. Charley West (who earned his doctorate in "humpdayology", if you were wondering) of the internet's premier West Virginia blog, Smoking Musket, was kind enough to answer a few questions about this Saturday's Maryland-West Virginia game. Inside there's opinions on what the loss of the 'Eers' starting CB does to the defense, the rivalry aspect of the game, and more.

And yes, the cheesy war descriptions return next time. I'm tired, so I went boring this time, but it's still Behind Enemy Lines.

1. It looks as though West Virginia could be without both starting linebacker Pat Lazear and starting cornerback Brandon Hogan, but first things first: does it appear as though Hogan has a chance to play on Saturday at this point, or do you think he'll be ruled out/suspended? If he and Lazear (who could also play) are both out, who replaces them and how big of a drop-off is there?

Losing Hogan is a big, big loss talent-wise, but the system WVU players will certainly help. In the 3-3-5, you have an extra defensive back that can help shoulder the load on pass coverage. Hogan was playing very well, but we have enough talented guys back there (Robert Sands, especially) that we can minimize a potential hole on defense. Brodrick Jenkins will likely get the start, and while wet behind the ears, has received praise in practices for some time now. There's a drop off, but it's not the end of the world. As for Lazear, his replacement Najee Goode has a very strong game against Marshall and is an experienced and capable backup. I don't see any problem there.

2. One of the biggest things that struck me when looking over West Virginia was the defense. I don't really ever remember WVU having a killer D, but the 3-3-5 was able to get the job done most years. But according to the statbooks, WVU hasn't had a sack yet, and looked pretty poor at times against Marshall. What's the deal there, and how worried are you about it?

Not worried at all. The defense is a strength of this team, and should get any and all kinks worked out sooner rather than later. They allowed two big plays against Marshall (a 55 yard run very early and the 98 yard bomb passing TD), but other than those, played very stingy. The lack of sacks is troubling, but I think the defense still allows us to win football games we might not necessarily win otherwise.

3. So what was the biggest culprit in the Marshall game? Was it a fluke, or were the problems we saw there real?

That was a hornet's nest. Doc Holliday, WVU grad and former coach, in-state "rival," night game on national television. It was a tough, tough game. We have loads more talent, but Marshall played very well. In my opinion, it's one of those games that you're just glad to get out of alive. I think a much better indication of WVU's season will come Saturday afternoon against the Terps.

4. So, Geno Smith seems like a future (or maybe current) star at QB. Because Maryland fans are soooo familiar with former WVU star Pat White, compare and contrast their talents.

They're almost complete opposites. Smith looks to pass first, second, and third -- he will only run if absolutely necessary. When he runs, he does have some speed, but not anything like our old #5. He has a very accurate and strong arm, though, so the modus operandi of attack has definitely changed.

5. On the Rival-o-MeterTM, with 1 being some random West Coast I-AA team playing Syracuse and 10 being Michigan-Ohio State, where does Maryland rank for West Virginia?

Probably about a 6. It was higher during the McBrien years, but the time off and Maryland being way down hasn't helped. I like the series, however, and am glad it's continuing. Considering we recruit the DC/Baltimore area, a win against Maryland will help us out each year.

6. Last one: predict the outcome. Score not required, but appreciated.

While the Hogan suspension doesn't kill our defense, it is a distraction. Still, I think WVU can and should win, though not as convincingly as one would like. I would say 34-21, good guys [ed's note: that is, bad guys].