Maryland at #8 West Virginia
Saturday, Noon EDT, FX
Be prepared for an offensive mismatch this weekend between Maryland and West Virginia. Randy Edsall’s Terrapins are 2-1, but defeated FCS William and Mary in the opening week only because of a late touchdown that put them up 7-6. Maryland also staved off a late comeback by Temple in Week 2, only to lose to Edsall’s former team, Connecticut, 24-21 last week.
Close games are rather foreign to Dana Holgorsen’s Mountaineers. West Virginia won the 2012 Orange Bowl against Clemson, 70-33, and the offseason has not seemed to slow down their momentum. In their opening game against in-state rival Marshall, WVU won 69-34, and two weeks later beat FCS James Madison by 30.
Holgorsen is a disciple of pass-happy coaches such as Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin, and has used their Air Raid offense to good effect. The Mountaineers are currently 2nd in the nation in passing offense while still cracking the top 25 in rushing offense. Maryland also uses a variant of the spread offense, but it does not seem to be working. After three games the Terps are 119th in per game passing offense, 102nd in rushing offense, and 99th in points per game. Maryland and West Virginia also employ similar defenses, with the Terrapins employing a 3-4 whereas the Mountaineers use a variant with two linebackers and five lineman.
Experience plays more than a little role in Maryland’s failures and West Virginia’s successes in the backfield. After Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin, and C.J. Brown was injured before the season started, Maryland pressed true freshman Perry Hills into service, and has thrown for 444 passing yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions, to go with two rushing touchdowns.. Meanwhile, West Virginia has a Heisman candidate on their hands with senior Geno Smith, who has thrown for nine touchdowns against zero interceptions or sacks, and rushed for one touchdown.
While Maryland will do its best to counter West Virginia and it’s rabid home crowd, don’t expect any miracles. It will be a good game, but probably because West Virginia will run (and pass) all over the Terps.