The Mountaineers square off against their first BCS conference opponent this Saturday at Mountaineer Field, the Maryland Terrapins. Both squads are 2-0 and have lots of reasons for optimism, and an equal number of reasons to be concerned.
Despite being a Mountaineer through and through, I also attended the University of Maryland from 1997-2001 (aka "the Ron Vanderlinden Era"). One of my former roommates, Scott Harris, is now the proprietor of Shell Games, which the Baltimore Sun recognized as the Baltimore/DC Metro area's best Terps Blog. Since I can't think of a better source for scouting the Terps than Scott, I reached out to him to get the skinny on what the Mountaineers can expect this Saturday. For my take on scouting the Mountaineers, click here.
Maryland has already matched its win total from last season. Is everything all hunky-dory in College Park again?
It's all gravy from here! Now that we've matched our two wins from 2009, we just sit back and light the cigars. It's an indescribable feeling.
But really, as you know, last season was pretty ugly. Ergo, Ralph Friedgen's backside is still among the nation's hottest. He's the Ines Sainz of college football coaches, if you will.
This season feels like an audition for Friedgen. With the arrival of a new university president and a new athletic director (former Army AD Kevin Anderson), there are new sheriffs in town. If Fridge can make a bowl game, he's safe for next season (the last on his contract). If he can't, they'll show him the door. Plenty of fans seem to be secretly rooting for another crappy season so Fridge checks out and the program can clean house. (A lot of them wanted him gone after last season, but the state couldn't justify the price of his contract buyout.)
That said, the Navy win and the Morgan State pounding has created some optimism around here. But I wouldn't go so far as to start throwing around phrases like hunky-dory. Things are fair-to-middlin' in College Park right now.
Do you think Friedgen needs to eclipse a certain win-total this season to keep his job? What total is that?
Six wins gets them bowl-eligible. That's what he'll need.
Maryland laid into Morgan State for sixty-plus points, but won a grinding game against Navy. Is this Terps teams built for speed and scoring, or is it more suited to a defensive struggle?
Definitely the former. The Navy game was sloppy and low-scoring, but both teams racked up yards. Maryland's defense is playing well (I think they can be one of the ACC's stronger units), but not because they win the tough inches. Maryland's strength, on the both sides of the ball, lies at the skill positions.
A few years back the ACC poached three teams from the Big East in hopes of building a powerful football conference. Currently, the Big East and ACC are still considered the two weakest BCS conferences. Have Miami, BC and VT lived up to expectations, and has the level of play improved since they've joined?
I'm going to go out on a limb and the expansion hasn't panned out the way its orchestrators had hoped. It's like the ACC dragged these teams down into the morass, hence the rather loud sucking sound heard every Saturday along the East Coast these days. Since the expansion in 2004, the Hurricanes are 25-23 in league play and have yet to appear in an ACC title game. Tech can't win the big one (or the small one, evidently). Boston College had Matt Ryan and that's about it. These two conferences have such massive basketball reputations that it's almost like a school's membership in either one makes it a basketball school by default. So yeah ... pretty big bust to this point, made all the more frustrating because you can't really pin down one single factor behind it.
Is Jamarr Robinson a guy the Terps are building an offense around, or is he just a placeholder until O'Brien or another quarterback can take his place?
A lot of people probably would want to say he's a building block, because, hey, he's the quarterback of the moment and no one wants to admit they're pinning their hopes on a placeholder. But in reality, it's the latter. O'Brien is a good prospect, but even more promising are freshmen Devin Burns and Tyler Smith, whose signing with the Terps was an absolute coup. Here's hoping we don't have to burn their redshirts, especially Smith's.
Name a Maryland player who could be an X-Factor this weekend?
It's Torrey Smith, no question about it. He is a stud wide receiver with ridiculous speed and ridiculous hands. He also returns kicks (finished sixth in the nation last year in all-purpose yards). The problem is they've had trouble getting him the ball. But now that the WVU secondary will be a little softer following Brandon Hogan's suspension, watch out.
Your game prediction?
Both teams have excellent playmakers, but are weaker in the trenches. So to me, this has the makings of a barn-burner. As much as I want to go with the Terps, I think Devine and the Mountaineers will be a little too much in the end. Maryland 27, West Virginia 42