Who: West Virginia (2-1) vs. Terps (3-0)
When: Saturday, 3:32 p.m.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: Sirius Channel 117, XM Channel 202.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 9-18). Mountaineers – Dana Holgorsen (third season, 19-10)
Series: 50th meeting. West Virginia leads 26-21-2.
The Maryland football team can at once exorcise its recent demons against West Virginia and match last season’s win total with a victory Saturday, all while remaining undefeated. The Terrapins are favored, and rightfully so. Their offense has rolled to 500 yards against Florida International, Old Dominion and Connecticut, and the defense hasn’t been challenged yet. Still, the Mountaineers will provide a nice tune-up before Florida State on Oct. 5 after the team’s first bye week. West Virginia still hasn’t beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision program yet, but played Oklahoma tough on the road and has displayed an unusually balanced offense with two-running back sets after losing Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL draft. Maryland hasn’t beaten West Virginia since the Gator Bowl on New Years’ Day 2004, when quarterback Scott McBrien – who transferred from Morgantown following the 2000 season – destroyed his former team. So, in other words, the Terps haven’t beaten West Virginia without a Mountaineers quarterback since 2001.
1) Will the offensive magic continue? Only three FBS programs have put up three consecutive 500-yard games this season: Oregon, California and Maryland. Last season in Morgantown, freshman Perry Hills lined up under center for Maryland, throwing short passes that Stefon Diggs bottled and transformed into magic. This season, C.J. Brown has become one of the nation’s most dangerous quarterbacks, buoyed by a supporting cast of playmakers that ranges from Diggs to wide receiver Deon Long to running back Brandon Ross. West Virginia is never known for its defense, but will try to limit the suddenly potent show that’s popped up in College Park.
2) Can Maryland get to Childress? West Virginia quarterback Ford Childress will make his second career start and must handle a Maryland pass rush that ranks among the nation’s best. Outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield has tallied 1.5 sacks per game, tied for first nationally, and his backup Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil often brings havoc from the other side. Childress is a big-bodied signal-caller capable of absorbing the pressure, and all but welcomed the Terps to blitz their hearts out during interviews this week. Maryland wants to blitz, and must with a secondary depleted by injury. West Virginia knows it’s coming. Which side wins out?
3) How will the Terps defend the run? West Virginia running back Charles Sims is flying under the radar a bit despite averaging 5.6 yards on 52 carries this season, topping 100 yards twice. The Mountaineers have employed two running backs on the field more this season than they did last year in Morgantown, and though Sims has caught just four passes for 48 yards through three games, he can still be a dangerous threat releasing from the backfield. If Maryland enters its standard nickel package, middle linebacker Cole Farrand will be responsible for spying Sims. His success – not just limiting Sims’s pass-catching opportunities, but curbing his rushing gains at the second level — could set the tone for the Terps.
363.3: Yards per game from Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown.
8: Years since the Terps tallied six sacks in a game before doing so against Connecticut.
40: Percentage of times that Whitfield and Cudjoe-Virgil blitzed together and recorded sacks vs. the Huskies, out of 10 snaps.
“I think it’s the fact that it’s kind of a home game for us, but it’s not. It’s not right here in our back yard, but it is in Baltimore. It’s still our home crowd, things like that. Just the fact that it’s an NFL stadium maybe adds a little more. But all in all, the field’s the same size. You still have to go out there and play the game.” – Brown.
“I think people tend to get too caught up in yards. In today’s offenses, with the number of plays they’re running, I think obviously you have to control that, can’t let it get out of hand. But at the same time, the bottom line is, at the end of the day, the objective of a defense is to stop them from scoring. I thought Connecticut did a good job of that. They big-played Connecticut, and that’s where the yards came in, but Connecticut did a good job of keeping them out of the end zone, and that’s the key to everything.” – West Virginia defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.
THE SONG OF SATURDAY
“Superfast Jellyfish” by Gorillaz.
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