Who: Maryland (5-1, 1-1 ACC) at Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2)
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
DMV radio: WTEM (980 AM), WJZ (105.7 FM).
Satellite radio: Sirius channel 134, XM channel 193.
Coaches: Terps – Randy Edsall (third season, 11-19). Demon Deacons – Jim Grobe (13th season, 76-77)
Series: Sixty-second meeting. Maryland leads 43-17-1, but has lost three straight in Winston-Salem.
For the first time since Edsall took the job in College Park, the Maryland football team is one victory away from bowl eligibility. To do so, it must snap a three-game losing streak at Wake Forest against a pesky Demon Deacons squad that’s experienced its share of ups and downs this season. But the Terrapins get quarterback C.J. Brown back from a concussion after the dual-threat dynamo missed last weekend’s 27-26 home win over Virginia. With the offense operating at full strength, Maryland looks to poke holes in a middling Wake Forest defense that allows 22 points per game and ranks ninth in the conference in total defense, but the Terrapins’ defense also has questions, having ceded more than 500 yards in consecutive games against Florida State (understandable) and Virginia (far more confusing). Still, Maryland has a golden opportunity to move to 6-1 entering a home date with No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 26.
1) Take care of business? The oddsmakers favor Maryland in this game, and justifiably so. Regardless of competition, the Terps have strung together their best six-game start since 2001. Wake Forest, on the other hand, whipped North Carolina State at home last weekend but also fell to Louisiana-Monroe at BB&T Field in mid-September. But analysts – particularly those at ESPN – have pegged the Demon Deacons as this week’s trendy upset pick, given their stiffness at home and Maryland’s conference road struggles (1-8 since Edsall arrived) in recent seasons. Still, even with Brown under center and the combination of Deon Long and Stefon Diggs catching passes, the Terps must avoid a letdown to prevent tumbling into the matchup against the vaunted Tigers.
2) Contain Campanaro? The question here is less whether the Maryland defense can altogether stop Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro, but rather whether the Terps can contain the dynamic slot receiver, who leads the ACC with 8.8 receptions and 116.4 receiving yards per game. Against a secondary and linebacking corps depleted by injury – three starters and two backups will miss the game, including three outside linebackers in Matt Robinson (rotator cuff), Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (torn pectoralis) and Alex Twine (labrum) – Campanaro could have a field day. He missed last season’s game against Maryland with a broken wrist, but has rebounded better than ever this season. The burden may fall onto true freshman Will Likely, often packaged as the nickel corner, to make sure Campanaro doesn’t change the game. He’ll catch his passes and gain his yards, almost assuredly. Whether he affects the outcome, however, is the trick.
“That guy’s a playmaker for them,” Coach Randy Edsall said. “They look to get him the ball in every situation they can. … He’s someone we have to be concerned with because he has the ability to make big plays.”
3) Win the turnover battle? Maryland’s turnover margin has plummeted since ACC play began. Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart’s unit, which forced giveaways at a rapid clip against four nonconference opponents, did it zero times against both Florida State and Virginia. During his Sunday conference call, Edsall claimed his offense’s penchant for fumbling concerned him more than the defense’s takeaway rate, but by Tuesday the answer flipped. Given the depleted second and third levels, the onus falls onto the defensive line to pressure Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price into quick decisions.
“He’s definitely not happy, just because that’s what we’re about,” defensive lineman Zeke Riser said of Stewart. “You can’t win a whole lot of games if you’re not winning the turnover battle. We’re a disruptive ball club. If we’re not attacking the ball, if we’re not getting those picks and sacks like we’re used to, of course there’s a little tension there. We have to keep drilling it. Not a whole lot of things went our way on Saturday and we somehow came out with the win. We really have to try to get after the ball, attack the ball after this week.”
77: Yards running back Brandon Ross gained on a screen pass last week, Maryland’s longest play this season.
0: Misses by Terps kicker Brad Craddock within 50 yards.
15.58: Yards per reception by Maryland this season, the program’s best mark since the 1980 season.
“No different than Game One. We look at the season in its entirety, not five games, not two games, not seven games. We look at each game separately, and what we have our focus on is to get the win. If we get a win, we put it in the bank and let it draw interest, then hopefully at the end of the 12 we have enough wins in the bank to achieve the goals we’ve set for ourselves. That’s our only focus, to go out and play better this week, get a win, try to make sure we do everything we can to do that. It’ll be no different this week than it has for all the other weeks so far.” – Edsall on bowl eligibility.
“There’s no W in there? There’s got to be a W in there.” – Maryland linebacker L.A. Goree, trying to spell the last name of new backup “Will” linebacker Yannick Ngakoue, a true freshman from Friendship Collegiate.
THE SONG OF SATURDAY
“I Feel Better” by Hot Chip.
MORE ON MARYLAND-WAKE FOREST