Maryland's defensive line vs. West Virginia's offensive line
If the weather is a mess -- strong winds, steady rain -- Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen expects it to be won up front. West Virginia has a dangerous triple-threat offense. Kay-Jay Harris is one of three backs who can effectively run. Quarterback Rasheed Marshall is adept at scrambling. And the Mountaineers have wide receivers, including 6-foot-5 Chris Henry, who can stretch the secondary. The play of Maryland tackles Henry Scott and Conrad Bolston will be key. And end Shawne Merriman needs to consistently apply pressure on Marshall, no easy task considering the size and experience of West Virginia's offensive line, which returned all five starters.
Let's end the speculation: Harris almost certainly will play today. He has said so. Teammates expect him to. And there are some in Morgantown -- no joke -- who say they will bet their homes that Harris plays against the Terps. The only person who is lukewarm about Harris's availability is Mountaineers Coach Rich Rodriguez, who said the 25-year-old running back is questionable because of a hamstring pull. Harris ran for a Big East-record 337 yards in the season-opening win over East Carolina.
Will it end today? Or will the "Beat Maryland" mandate trumpeted all summer in Morgantown fail once again? Rich Rodriguez used two psychological maneuvers this week. The first was comedy. The West Virginia coach said he has done everything but hire a voodoo doctor and psychiatrist to figure out why his team has lost to the Terps four straight times. He said he watches Maryland tape when he wants to torture himself. The other strategy he used was to deflect pressure from his team, saying it is the underdog despite a No. 7 ranking and significant home-field advantage.
Country Road Game
Joel Statham has played with more confidence since carving up Temple's defense for 268 passing yards. Performing well today, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said, would lift his confidence to an even higher level entering ACC play. Statham has overcome his initial challenge: excelling in his own stadium. Now he must do it at Mountaineer Field, where fans will be hurling insults and perhaps more tangible things as well. Rain and 60,000 hostile locals -- a tough assignment for a 20-year-old quarterback making his first road start.
Terps quarterback Joel Statham, who passed for 268 yards against Temple, will have a tough test at Mountaineer Field.