For the first time in 10 years, Maryland football hosts Virginia to reignite one of the oldest rivalries in college football.
Friday night’s game is the 79th rendition of the rivalry, with the Terps holding a 44-32-2 all-time advantage. Maryland won the last matchup in 2013, 27-26.
“To be able to have this game on our schedule was something that I wanted,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said. “You know, obviously because of the proximity and because of some of the history behind this game.”
Right now, the teams are going in opposite directions. Virginia looks to rediscover its identity, having posted a 9-13 record over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, the Terps look for their third straight winning season.
Friday’s matchup will begin at 7 p.m. and be televised on Fox Sports 1.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Terps are 14.5-point favorites (-575 moneyline). The game has an over/under of 48 total points.
Virginia Cavaliers (0-2)
2022 record: 3-7 (1-6 ACC)
Following a trip to the Orange Bowl in the 2019 season, it’s been tough sledding for Virginia. After two consecutive .500 seasons, Bronco Mendenhall resigned as head coach after six years at the helm.
The Cavaliers lost almost 20 players to the transfer portal ahead of the 2022 season, and head coach Tony Elliott understandably struggled in his first season, leading his team to just three wins. Virginia’s season was tragically cut shortly after a shooting led to the deaths of three players: Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry.
“I’ve been really impressed with the way [Elliott’s] managed this team through some of the tragedy they had a year ago and you know, Tony is one of those all-around good guys,” Locksley added.
Virginia dropped its first game of the season to No. 12 Tennessee, 49-13, before an emotional return home in week two, where it lost to James Madison, 36-35.
Players to watch
Chico Bennett Jr., graduate defensive end, No. 15 — Bennett is probably the most talented player on Virginia’s roster. He’s been an impact player for the ‘Hoos after spending his first two seasons at Georgia Tech. He led the team with seven sacks last year en route to an All-ACC honorable mention.
He was also twice named the ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Prior to the 2023 season, he was named to the Wuerffel Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Senior Bowl watch lists, and garnered a selection on the all-conference preseason second team.
Bennett Jr. missed Virginia’s first game, but recored four tackles against James Madison.
Malik Washington, graduate wide receiver, No. 4 — The Northwestern transfer is off to a hot start in his final collegiate season. In his last two seasons with the Wildcats, Washington recorded over 1,000 combined yards, and already has close to 150 through his first two games with Virginia. In last week’s game against James Madison, the former All-Big Ten third-team selection had five catches for 119 yards and a score. He also returns kicks.
Jonas Sanker, junior safety, No. 20 — The Charlottesville native has been a consistent contributor for Virginia over the past two seasons, but seems to have taken the next step this year. Sanker has arguably been the team’s best defender so far this year, with 19 tackles — 12 of those solo — and two pass breakups.
Daniel Sparks, senior punter, No. 38 — Not often are punters impact players, but Sparks is one of the best in the country. Last season, he matched Virginia’s single-season punting average record of 46.8 yards per kick and was named to the All-ACC second team. In Virginia’s game against Pittsburgh, he had three punts of over 60 yards.
Ahead of the 2023 season, the Minnesota transfer was named to the Ray Guy Award preseason watch list. He’s been plenty busy so far this year, boasting an average of more than 45 yards per kick on 15 punts. He’s booted three punts inside the 20-yard line and already has two punts of more than 60 yards. Against James Madison, he sent one 69 yards, the sixth-longest punt in the FBS this season.
Ball security. Last season, Virginia’s kryptonite was its sloppiness with the ball. In eight of 10 games, it committed at least two turnovers. A large reason why Elliott brought in former Monmouth quarterback Tony Muskett was to limit the number of interceptions, as last year’s starter, Brennan Armstrong, tossed 12.
Through two games this season, the ‘Hoos have just one turnover, with a team completion rate of 62%.
Rush defense/offense. Virginia’s rush defense is on a historically bad pace through two games. It’s allowed 454 rushing yards through two games, with seemingly no answer in the trenches.
To make matters worse, despite bringing in high-profile Clemson-transfer Kobi Pace to solidify their own ground game, the Cavaliers have managed just 113 total yards on the ground this season.
Their rush defense and offense both rank last in the ACC by a large margin.
Three things to watch
1. Tony Muskett’s health. Virginia’s starting quarterback suffered a non-throwing shoulder injury in the fourth quarter against Tennessee, forcing him to miss the game against James Madison. True freshman Anthony Colandrea put forth a valiant effort in his absence, but the ‘Hoos will need an experienced quarterback against Maryland.
Offensive coordinator Des Kitchings told reporters Wednesday morning that Muskett will start against the Terps, but it has to be wondered whether he is fully healthy.
2. Maryland looks to start 3-0 for the third straight season. Maryland’s found success early in seasons under Locksley, and has a chance start 3-0 once again before Big Ten play hits.
3. A repeat performance from Hemby? As mentioned earlier, Virginia’s rush defense is abysmal — ranked No. 123 in the FBS. Hemby had a career showing last week with 162 rushing yards, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he has another monster game on Friday.