Another West Virginia passing record will fall when Maryland comes to Morgantown on Saturday.
Quarterback Geno Smith is just one passing attempt short of Marc Bulger's career mark of 1,023. The senior already holds the career records for completions, yards and touchdowns, so sometime, likely on WVU's first drive, the scoreboard at Milan Puskar Stadium will light up and Smith will officially be the most prolific quarterback in school history.
After that, a rivalry will be played out, perhaps West Virginia's last traditional rivalry that will be played regularly in the foreseeable future.
The Mountaineers played their last contest with Pitt in 2011 and their last with Marshall in Week 1 this season, and both series are yet to be renewed. However, head coach Dana Holgorsen expressed his interest in continuing the series with UMD in his press conference this Tuesday (via WVUSports.com).
"This isn’t the last time we’re going to play; we’re going to continue to play," Holgorsen said. "It’s going to mean a lot to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. From a regional standpoint, it’s very important."
This series is certainly important in a broad perspective, but this particular game is also very important for the Mountaineers this season, as next week they are slated for their inaugural Big 12 Conference game against Baylor.
Ranked inside the top 10, WVU has title aspirations in its sights, so building momentum going into conference play is vital.
Meanwhile, Maryland is in a rebuilding stage as a program. Second-year head coach Randy Edsall and his Terrapins have already matched their win total from 2011 of a whopping two games.
After finishing at just 2-10 last season, UMD is off to a 2-1 start this year—though its wins have been far from impressive.
The 2012 season nearly began in disaster after Maryland used a fourth-quarter touchdown to edge FCS William and Mary 7-6 in Week 1. Next, the offense rebounded to score 36 in a win over Temple, despite recording four turnovers.
Regardless, Maryland will have to be much sharper to keep up with the No. 3 total offense in the country.
Players To Watch
WVU QB Geno Smith—Likely the No. 1 Heisman Trophy candidate at this point in the season, Smith has been the ace pilot for Holgorsen's air raid offense. In two games, he has accounted for more total touchdowns (10) than incompletions (9). However, stopping or even slowing him down has seemed like impossible task to this point in the season.
"He's got a great arm and he knows where to go with the ball," Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said early this week (via UMTerps.com). "You can watch the film and see the level of confidence that he plays with. If we can shake that confidence a little bit early in the game and disrupt it, then that would be to our advantage."
UMD QB Perry Hills—With the departure of Danny O'Brien and the injury to C.J. Brown, freshman Perry Hills was tabbed as the starter in College Park. He hasn't been extremely effective through three games, posting a 3:4 touchdown to interception ratio, but he could due for an improvement against WVU, the No. 93 passing defense in the nation.
WVU IR Tavon Austin—Outside receiver Stedman Bailey has not only been the best receiver for WVU to this point, but he has also been arguably the best receiver in the nation so far. However, Austin is a Baltimore native who was recruited by UMD, so you can bet he'll be looking to have a strong performance against the Terrapins on Saturday.
"(Playing Maryland) means a lot," Austin said earlier this week (via WVUSports.com). "My cousin went there so there’s always some bragging rights with him. I thank them for recruiting me and the opportunity to play there but at the end of the day I chose to play at West Virginia. It should be a good game."
UMD WR Stefon Diggs—One of the top recruits in the nation, Maryland's true freshman receiver Diggs was the crown jewel of its recruiting class and he has already had a huge impact at the college level. He currently ranks in the top 25 in the nation in all-purpose yardage, kick return and punt return yardage, already earning him comparisons to Austin. Nevertheless, Holgorsen didn't seem too concerned about the freshman phenom when asked about him this week.
"They’re called good players," he said, "and there are more than just Tavon Austin and Stefon Diggs across the country, I can assure you that. We don’t care who they are; we figure out what their schemes are and what we have to do to contain guys like that."
WVU LB Terence Garvin—Another Baltimore native, Garvin is also poised for a big game against the flagship team of his home state. The converted safety has 13 career tackles against UMD and also had a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown in last year's game in Morgantown. Not only that, but the senior is No. 2 on the team in tackles and No. 1 with two sacks in two games.
UMD LB Kenny Tate—After missing the majority of 2011 with a knee injury, the Terps star linebacker Tate may be back on the field against WVU. According to Jeff Barker of The Baltimore Sun, Tate is listed as "probable" for Saturday, as of Thursday night. In just four games last year, the NFL prospect registered two interceptions and 35 tackles, including ten and a forced fumble against the Mountaineers. West Virginia has already been anticipating his arrival:
"They lost their good outside backer Kenny Tate. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays," Holgorsen said, "We’ll be prepared if he does. From a personnel standpoint, we’re very familiar with them."
Keys to the Game
1. Can Maryland slow down the relentless West Virginia offensive attack?
As, Edsall mentioned, Maryland will try to rattle Smith early in an attempt to break his confidence. However, Smith has been unshakable so far this season, and you can bet he'll be ready to sling it at home in Morgantown. If No. 12 finds his groove, it will be a long day for the Terps.
2. Will Perry Hills avoid mistakes to keep the Terps in it?As mentioned earlier, Hills has struggled with turnovers thus far in his young career. However, Edsall's confidence in Hills has grown already: "I know that some of the mistakes you saw from last week you won't see this week," he said. "You might see some new ones - you hope you don't, but I'm confident in him. He's extremely conscientious and he is going to get better."
3. Can UMD quiet the Morgantown crowd?
Milan Puskar Stadium is one of the most notoriously difficult venues for visiting teams to find success. If Maryland can establish a lead early, they'll stand a much better chance of pulling off the upset. It all plays into keeping Smith and the Mountaineers out of their rhythm early. If Maryland can do that, they'll have a chance.
Start Time, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Live Stats
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET | Milan Puskar Stadium | Morgantown, W. Va.
TV Coverage: FX
Live Stream: No official stream available