This Saturday the West Virginia Mountaineers will be hosting a familiar foe: the Maryland Terrapins. Last year the two former Big East school rekindled their rivalry with West Virginia stealing a close game at Maryland. This time around the Terps want revenge, but the Mountaineers are coming off of a bye week and looking to stay undefeated.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 26th at 2:00 PM EST
WHERE: Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, West Virginia)
FORECAST: Cloudy, Wind 8-10 mph, Game Temp 72°F
TV: Fox Sports 1 / Fox Sports GO
BETTING LINE: West Virginia -17 (O/U 57)
Maryland followed up their season opening victory over Richmond with a loss to Bowling Green before bouncing back last week. Although Maryland has notched two wins in three games this season they’ve looked sloppy and at times completely disorganized this season. Last weekend quarterback Caleb Rowe made his first start for the Terrapins since 2013, he played in four games in 2014 before tearing his ACL. The switch in quarterbacks paid off for head coach Randy Edsall who had to be happy to see Rowe spreading the ball around to all of Maryland’s offensive weapons.
The Terrapins defense continues to be a weak spot as they currently rank 97th in total defense in FBS, last week they gave up 300 yards of offense to South Florida with 240 of those yards coming on the ground. In order to be effective this week the Maryland defense will have to do its best to keep a West Virginia passing offense which ranks 15th in the country in check.
Key Players For Maryland
Caleb Rowe – In his first start of the season Rowe threw for 297 yards with 4 touchdowns and three interceptions. To go along with his three interceptions Rowe fumbled the ball three times with Maryland being able to recover the ball each time. Rowe will need to protect the ball and get the same level of production for the Terrapins to be a threat in this game.
Brandon Ross – The Terrapins leading rusher with 228 yards and four touchdowns through three games will need to take advantage of having more space to run. With Caleb Rowe’s ability to throw the ball the West Virginia defense won’t be able to load the box which should result in more lanes for Ross to break free in.
Quinton Jefferson – Maryland’s leader in tackles for loss and sacks through three games has spent a great deal of time in opponent’s backfield so far this season. In order for Maryland to slow down West Virginia’s passing attack Jefferson will need to be in the backfield disrupting plays all game long.
MARYLAND’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Minimize Mistakes – For a team that currently ranks 104th in FBS in penalties and is 116th in turnover margin this could not be a worse opponent. West Virginia currently ranks second in the nation in turnover margin per game and they will capitalize on any mistakes that Maryland makes.
Spread The Wealth – Last week Caleb Rowe completed passes to nine different receivers and threw four touchdowns to three different receivers. If Rowe can be patient and complete the passes that the West Virginia defense will give him early it’ll open up the field for bigger plays later. Spreading the wealth to as many targets as possible will make the Mountaineers cover the entire field.
Temp Them To Run – Drop seven and eight defenders into coverage and make West Virginia win with their running game. West Virginia’s running game currently ranks 74th in FBS and they’ll definitely want to pass the ball as much as possible. If the Terrapins can ground the Mountaineers air attack it’ll serve them well in this game.
WHAT MARYLAND FANS WANT TO SEE
Progress towards becoming a more complete and disciplined team. Maryland’s offense is capable of being very balanced and dangerous if they can maximize the big hits and eliminate the big turnovers they’ll take a big step in that direction. On defense the Terrapins have to keep the Mountaineer play makers in front of them and find ways to force a few turnovers. Terrapin fans are ready to see more than seven wins a season and this game needs to show that they’re capable of that.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
It seems that no other team in the Big 12 flies under the radar the way West Virginia does. They’ve quietly started their season with two big wins and now they face their first real challenge in Maryland. This game will go a long way towards telling us how good the Mountaineers are on both sides of the ball since they really haven’t been challenged this season. With two weeks to prepare for this game the Mountaineers should be well prepared, however Dana Holgorsen coached teams are only 2 and 5 coming off of bye weeks.
Key Players For West Virginia
Skyler Howard– The Mountaineer quarterbacks career has started off well with Howard throwing for 622 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. Howard should be able to drive the Mountaineer offense up and down the field while mixing in long bombs to break this game open for West Virginia.
Shelton Gibson – Gibson is the true definition of a home run hitter at only 5’11” he has six catches for 211 yards with two touchdowns. If the Mountaineer wide receiver can continue to average 35.2 yards per reception it should provide the rest of the West Virginia receiving corps with clear lanes to run their routes on Saturday afternoon.
Karl Joseph – The preseason All Big 12 corner back has done everything that people expected of him. In two games he has amassed 11 tackles, three interceptions and one fumble recovery which is pretty astounding for only two games of work. Joseph will be tested this weekend with a Maryland team that will lean on their passing attack to stay in the game.
WEST VIRGINIA’S KEYS TO THE GAME
Get Up Early – West Virginia’s offense should be able to score early and often against Maryland. If they can build a nice early lead the Mountaineers should be able to cruise to an easy victory on Saturday.
Pester Rowe – The West Virginia defense doesn’t necessarily need to sack Caleb Rowe as much as they need to pressure and hit him. Pressure for the Mountaineers front could prove to be Rowe’s undoing as he showed that he will turn the ball over last week.
Control The Big Plays – Maryland’s biggest hope in this game lies in their ability to break big plays on offense or in the return game. The Mountaineers aren’t prone to giving up huge plays and they don’t need to start now.
WHAT WEST VIRGINIA FANS WANT TO SEE
A dominating offensive performance that leaves the Maryland defense in the dust. On defense, the Mountaineers will want to limit the Terrapin’s big plays by keeping all of the Maryland players contained. For this game to be viewed as a positive one West Virginia needs to win big.
Last year this was a competitive game that West Virginia won on a last second field goal after giving up a 22 point lead. Don’t expect for the same thing to happen this year, Dana Holgorsen will have reminded this team about the results of letting up in this game last year. The Mountaineers pull ahead and early and stay ahead for the whole the game, partying will start early in Morgantown this Saturday.