After a much expected win against Georgia State, West Virginia is paying a visit to Baltimore and the home of the defending Super Bowl Champion Balitmore Ravens to take on the University of Maryland Terrapins. Given Maryland's opponents so far, this matchup could turn into a rerun of the Georgia State game. With quarterback Ford Childress managing offense, and a continuously improving defense, the Mountaineers have the upper hand.
After WVU QBs Paul Millard and Clint Trickett didn't connect well with the offense in the first two games, head coach Dana Holgorsen decided to give Childress a try against Georgia State. This decision paid off big. Childress completed 25 of 41 passes for 359 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The interception was early in the game when he was getting his jitters out of the way.
This season the Maryland secondary is allowing just under 200 yards to quarterbacks per game. However they will be missing one of their key corners in Saturday's game. This is a perfect situation for Childress and the receivers to exploit. If they have early successes throwing the ball it will allow their running game to open up as well.
The Mountaineers' running backs have been causing problems for defenses all season long. Combined, their top three running backs have 579 yards and five touchdowns. Charles Sims has been leading the way with the majority of the carries, but Dreamius Smith is a nice back up to him and has made some great runs this season. Wendell Smallwood has done an excellent job as a third down back, helping West Virginia’s offense pick up first downs.
Expect all three running backs to get a good amount of playing time on Saturday to help break down a tough Terrapin rush defense. This season the Terps have allowed under 100 yards per game on the ground. West Virginia is averaging 195 rushing yards per game. If the Mountaineers establish a running game early and mix it strategically with a solid passing attack, they will boost their chances of winning.
While the running backs have to deal with a seemingly impenetrable running defense, the wide receivers will have their own challenges. The Maryland secondary is stout and has given opposing wide receivers and quarterbacks a tough time, though they have not played a team of the same caliber as West Virginia. The only team the Terps had problems with was UCONN, which admittedly isn’t saying much.
As mentioned above, the Terrapins will be without one of their top corners, a weakness the receivers need to take advantage of. Daikel Shorts has been a favorite target of Childress’ so far. I expect him to penetrate for decent amounts of yardage with a touchdown or two. Look for Ronald Carswell and Ivan McCartney to make a big impact in this game. Last week, the majority of Childress’ passes went to these three receivers.
The Mountaineer defense showed up three weeks in a row, which is saying a lot considering how bad they were last year. The defensive players have shown that they can be consistent and effective in forcing opponents to turn the ball over. They will definitely have their work cut out for them this week since Maryland is racking up close to 300 passing yards and 262 rushing yards per game. Granted they haven’t faced a defense like West Virginia’s yet so Terrapin fans shouldn’t set their sights too high on what their team can do Saturday.
There is one player that the defense, specifically the secondary cannot sleep on. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs has been an absolute beast this year pulling in sixteen receptions for 387 yards and three touchdowns. If this were last year's defense, Diggs would go wild against the secondary. Instead, he'll be facing a Mountaineer secondary that is more disciplined and should be able to limit him to around 75 yards and maybe give up one touchdown to him. Diggs is averaging close to 130 yards receiving per game this year, but the Mountaineer secondary is a heck of a lot better than FIU’s, Old Dominion’s or UCONN’s. While he will get catches here and there don’t look for him to have a huge game Saturday.
If West Virginia can lose to a team like Oklahoma by just a few points, then there is no reason why they can't beat Maryland. While the comparison may seem like apples to oranges, the Mountaineers played an all-around great game two weeks ago. If they play like that this week, they will head back to Morgantown with a win. Maryland may be in for a surprise since they have had an easy schedule until now. This weekend they will not be putting as many points on the scoreboard against WVU as they did against lesser opponents.
Prediction: Maryland-20 WVU-38
Player of the Game: Daikel Shorts 10 receptions 105 yards 2 TDs
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