Who: Maryland (2-1) at West Virginia (2-0).
When: Saturday, noon.
Where: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: XM Channel 85, Sirius Channel 85.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (second season, 4-11). Mountaineers – Dana Holgorsen (second season, 12-3)
Series: Mountaineers lead 25-21-2 and have won six straight. Last Maryland win was in the Gator Bowl after the 2003 season (Terps beat the Mountaineers twice that season).
The Mountaineers, ranked eighth in the latest AP poll, host a Terps team still young and inexperienced through three games. Both sides consider it a rivalry, but the matchup has been one-sided over the past six meetings. West Virginia’s offensive fireworks will be on display, led by quarterback and early Heisman favorite Geno Smith, so the onus will be on both Maryland’s defense to slow down the “Air Raid” attack and on the offense to keep Smith off the field (more on these later). The Terrapins are heavy underdogs going into this one and will be hard-pressed to slow down Mountaineers offense that’s put up 55 points and more than 600 yards on average in each of its first two games. Though the Terrapins relish the “us-against-the-world” mentality, facing a team of this caliber on the road will be their biggest challenge to date in 2012.
1.Will the air be raided? West Virginia’s offense relies on quick hits and big plays. Smith gets rid of the ball quicker than any quarterback in the country under pressure, and the Mountaineers spread the field so well that one missed tackle on the outside can lead to a touchdown. The Terrapins have one of the nation’s best defenses, but William & Mary, Temple and Connecticut hardly pose the all-around threat presented by West Virginia. Wide receiver Tavon Austin is a dynamic threat on offense and special teams, and could break one lose at any moment, so throwing Smith off his rhythm with early pressure will be top priority. Based on this scheme’s past success, holding the Mountaineers to less than 40 points would be a feat.
2.Can the Terps control the clock? Maryland has four running backs listed as co-starters on its depth chart, so the Terps would like to grind out the clock and keep Smith off the field as much as possible. This is nothing new to the Mountaineers; pretty much every team game-plans this way against them. At least one running back out of Justus Pickett, Brandon Ross, Albert Reid and Wes Brown will have to eat up heavy yards if the Terps want to keep the score low and have a fighting chance.
3.How much will the crowd matter? The passion and noise brought by the Mountaineer faithful has been well-documented. The last time Maryland visited Morgantown, its first drive had three delay-of-game penalties and one false start. Will true freshman quarterback Perry Hills and center Sal Conaboy get rattled beneath the most electric crowd he’ll ever have faced? What about Stefon Diggs, the Terps’s biggest offensive and special teams weapon? Regardless of the final score, how the Terps hold up under this intense atmosphere could say plenty about their capabilities moving forward.
56: Of Maryland’s players who have seen action this season, the percent who are underclassmen (28 of 50).
227.3 vs. 612.0: Yards per game allowed by Maryland, which ranks eighth nationally, versus the yards per game put up by West Virginia, which ranks third nationally.
.941: West Virginia’s winning percentage, since 1980, when the Mountaineers score at least 30 points.
“If you don’t know that West Virginia is a hell of a place to play, I don’t know where you’ve been living the first 18 years of your life. It’s going to be a wild environment. It always is. But what are you going to do? You have to be ready to adapt.” – Terps defensive lineman A.J. Francis.
“We’ll bring our offense. We basically do what we do. It’s based on repetition and stuff like that. Our routine will stay the same. As game plans go, there are things that we stress some Saturdays that we don’t others. It’s more based on the fact of what they do defensively rather than who coaches them.” – West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson.
The Song(s) of Saturday
Anything but “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.