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Stats Preview - Toppling the Mountaineers

Maryland takes on border rival West Virginia in a crucial litmus test in College Park

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland faces their toughest test yet in 2014 when they take on the reviled West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday.  This game is arguably Maryland's most important non-conference game of the season.  With the conference move, West Virginia is the only remaining rivalry game with any sort of meaningful history on the Terps schedule.  The game means a lot to both fan bases, to recruits, and to players.  West Virginia's head coach Dana Holgorsen had this to say:

"It's one of the few regional games that we have left...Currently, this is kind of the only one that we have to hang our hat on right now. I know that's important to everyone. I know the history of this game is important to everybody. It's important to our players... Recruiting is important over in Maryland, so we have a lot of guys on the east coast who we recruit who will pay attention to this game."

West Virginia leads the all time series 26-22-2.  With the table set, here are how the teams stack up.

Maryland Offense vs. West Virginia Defense (all statistics are per game)

Points

Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion Percentage

Rushing yards

Turnovers

Maryland Offense

38

394

53%

30:29

193.5

55%

200.5

3.5

WVU Defense

16.5

330

43%

31:08

165

56%

165 (4.2 per carry)

.5

The statistical performance of each team is difficult to compare at this stage of the season.   So far in the young season neither team has really played an equal match up.  Maryland's early season match ups have been against teams far below the quality of WVU.  West Virginia's beat down of Towson boosted their numbers after their clash with Alabama.  I would like to say that Alabama crushed the Mountaineers, but sadly that was not the case.  WVU held tough against Alabama losing by only 10 points, and staying close throughout.  The Mountaineers' per game stats will likely edge higher as they get deeper into the season.  West Virginia is a much improved team this year, to the point that C.J. Brown said on Tuesday that the tape of last year's game is useless in preparing for WVU.

The only discouraging outlier for the Terps is their turnover rate.  Maryland has put the ball in the ground 9 times, luckily only losing 4.  Fumbles have been a recurring problem during Randy Edsall's tenure.  In 2013, Maryland averaged 2.4 fumbles per game (losing 1.3 per game).  The 2012 season saw an averaged 2.4 fumbles per game (losing 1.5 per game).  The turnover bug is nothing new, and appears to be a systemic issue.  The staff needs to get this corrected and fast.  On the bright side, WVU has only forced 1 turnover this season (an interception).

Maryland Defense vs. West Virginia Offense

Points

Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion percentage

Rushing yards

Turnovers per game

WVU Offense

38.5

499.5

55%

28:52

360

75%

139 (3.7/ carry)

.5

Maryland  Defense

12

279.5

32%

29:31

157.5

41.8%

122 (3/carry)

2

The Mountaineers have thrived thus far under quarterback Clint Trickett.  The redshirt Senior transfer from Florida State has been a revelation this year for WVU.  Against Alabama Trickett threw for 365 yards against Alabama, and has 3 touchdowns and no interceptions on the season.  West Virginia was a young inexperienced team last year in Baltimore, but that team has grown up this year.

Thus far in the young season, Brian Stewart's defense has played a lot of 5 defensive back sets, and that will continue Saturday.  Job number one will be slowing down Kevin White who leads WVU with 122 receiving yards per game, and nearly 10 catches per game.  White has good size at 6' 3" and it will be interesting to see who the Terps task with covering him.  WVU runs just enough to keep defenses honest, but the real threat is through the air.  This will be West Virginia's first road game of the season, so a loud and boisterous crowd could help throw off their rhythm.

Special Teams

Field goals

Field goal conversion %

Punts per game

Penalties per game

Return Yards (Punt/KO)

Maryland

2-2 (long of 49 yards)

100%

5 (long of 64, 5 inside 20)

4.5 for 35 yards

22.2/34.5

West Virginia

4-6 (long of 42 yards)

66%

2.5 (long of 58, 5 inside 20)

4.5 for 45 yards

4.5/32

Maryland's special teams has been outstanding thus far in 2014, and deserves a lot of credit for the Terps unblemished record.  The Terps have the edge in the kicking department, with Brad Craddock looking phenomenal thus far.  Craddock has notched 8 touchbacks on 14 kickoffs thus far to go along with his two field goals.  West Virginia's Josh Lambert has struggled a little this season, missing from 34 and 47 yards respectively.  Last season Lambert converted 73% of his field goals with a long of 50 yards, so he can be dangerous.  I give the edge to Craddock in this game since he will be kicking on home turf.

West Virginia has a clear advantage in the punting department.  West Virginia's Nick O'Toole was a second team All-Big 12 performer a season ago and is off to strong start this season. (O'Toole's player profile picture lives up to his namesake)  All 5 of WVU's punts this season have been downed inside the opponent's 20 yard line.

Conclusion

The outcome of this game is difficult to predict.  West Virginia has played the harder schedule and stands at 1-1.  Maryland stands at 2-0, but has hardly looked good getting there.  This game matches strength against strength.  Maryland's defense vs. West Virginia's offense looks like a push, with neither team having a decided advantage.  The key will be C.J. Brown's arm - can the Terps move the ball against WVU's 3-3-5 defense?  My prediction: Terps 27 - WVU 24

Sources: umterps.com; wvusports.com