Maryland faces Old Dominion in its second game of 2013 on Saturday afternoon at Byrd Stadium. You already knew that. You probably don't know much about the visiting Monarchs, though, an independent FCS squad making the jump to Division I next season.
I corresponded with Harry Minium, ODU's beat man for the Virginian-Pilot, to get his thoughts on the team he covers and the game they'll play in College Park this weekend. Be sure to check out his work throughout the weekend at ODU Blitz. Our exchange is what follows.
TT: Old Dominion is in something of a period of transition, spending the year as an independent FCS team before moving to Conference-USA next year and -- I hear -- building a new stadium. Is this season being thought of by fans as a throwaway transition year, or is there real talent on this team that has folks' attention?
HM: A transition season into FBS is often a throwaway year because there's no chance to go to postseason play. But this is not really a throwaway season for ODU because of their schedule. They chose to wait a year, to play one more season in the CAA last season, and to make their transition season one in which they play an interesting schedule. They opened at East Carolina, which has a huge following in the Norfolk area. They have road games at Maryland, Pitt, UNC and Idaho (the one FBS game I would think they would be favored to win). ODU coach Bobby Wilder has called every FBS game a "bowl" game, and there's certainly a bit of truth to that when it comes to Maryland and UNC. ODU has never played an FBS school. To play five this season makes it a very special season. . . . And there is real talent on this team, especially on the offense. ODU's offensive line was outstanding against ECU, as was quarterback Taylor Heinicke and its wide receivers. Larry Pinkard, a DC kid, had 8 catches against ECU.
TT: Tell me about Bobby Wilder, the Monarchs' head coach who's put up a nice record in his tenure so far. What kind of gameplan and system should Maryland expect from him?
HM: Bobby is the consummate promoter. He's been to nearly 700 speaking engagements here since he began the program in late 2007. This program has his fingerprints all over it. He's never passed a microphone without speaking into it. He's nearly always available to the media and has practices open to the media.
He runs an up tempo, no-huddle offense with four wide receivers and rarely a tight end. They play fast. They like to wear down opponents. And expect the unexpected from Bobby. His team went for it on fourth down 33 times last season and converted 24.
TT: Where on the field is ODU most talented? Is there any spot in the lineup where they match up favorably against the Terrapins?
HM: ODU's quarterback and wide receivers compare well to some in the ACC. Taylor Heinicke passed for 5.076 yards and 44 touchdowns last season and ran for 470 and 11 more TDs. He's smart, checks off many plays at the line, is an outstanding passer and more elusive then he looks. Blair Roberts, Larry Pinkard, Antonio Vaughan and Jakwail Bailey could play wide receiver at a lot of ACC schools.
TT: What would need to happen for the Monarchs to pull off an upset Saturday afternoon?
HM: Maryland has more talent than ODU at most positions. Only one guy on ODU's roster, Andre Simmons from Lorton, Va., turned down a Maryland scholarship offer, and he originally went to Vanderbilt before transferring to ODU. In other words, the other 95 or so guys on ODU's roster were players Maryland didn't want. In order to win, ODU must play error-free football and hope Maryland makes some mistakes.
TT: Can I get your score prediction, with reasoning?
HM: Before the season, I predicted ODU would beat Maryland, but after watching the Terrapins against Florida International, I think this is Maryland's game to lose. Maryland looked very good. Maryland is a 19-point favorite. I won't predict a score, but I think it will be closer than that.