Who: Maryland Terrapins
When: Noon, Saturday September 17
Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park Maryland
What to watch for when the ‘Eers have the ball: Decisiveness. It's the one thing that has stood between the Mountaineers and offensive success this season. Through the first one-and-a-half games, Geno Smith stood in the backfield too long, zeroing in on a covered receiver and not taking the check-down route the defense was giving him. After halftime of last week's contest, the indecision was gone and the Mountaineer piled points on the board in a blur. If that offense shows up for the whole game in College Park, look out.
What to watch for when the Terps have the ball: Danny O'Brien. Former Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien (a WVU transfer) absolutely owned the Mountaineers. Since then, WVU has dominated the series, but the Terps never had a great talent at QB. Now they do. The West Virginia secondary has let a few too many receivers get behind them so far this season, a weakness O'Brien could exploit. It will be absolutely crucial for the Mountaineer D-Line to win the battle up front to put pressure on O'Brien and nullify the deep passing game.
The Mountaineers will roll if: The offense looks like it did in the third quarter against Norfolk State. That was a thing of beauty, even against overmatched competition. It was the first time in the Dana Holgorsen era that Mountaineer fans have seen the offense bloom.
The Mountaineers will have trouble if: They lose the battle of the bigs. The Mountaineers need improved line play on both sides of the football. If Bruce Irvin and company can't pressure O'Brien, or if the Mountaineer offensive line gets beaten repeatedly, it's going to be a long afternoon.
Thing that makes my blood boil: This is a game I can't win, or can't lose, depending on how you look at it. My heart is with my home state of West Virginia, whose blue and gold runs in my blood, and the fine institution which granted me my Master's degree. That said, my undergraduate years were spent in College Park, and I still count many friends amongst the Terrapin faithful. I'm all in on West Virginia, if only because the sports teams of your youth are something that is never replaced, heady college years or not. If the Mountaineers can win this one, they'll head into the biggest game on the slate next weekend with a head full of confidence that they can be Tiger killers. I'm happy to endure the irritation of my former roommates for that outcome.