Saturday, October 25, 2008

Homecoming Pregame: Maryland vs. NC State

Welcome home all Terrapin alumni. For the second time in two years, Maryland's homecoming game will be against NC State. It worked two years ago under the Sam Hollenbach year; let's see if Chris Turner can do the same.

The Maryland Terrapins (5-2, 2-1 ACC) take on the NC State Wolfpack (2-5, 0-3 ACC) in a interesting ACC matchup. A Maryland win would make them bowl-eligible as well as keep them tied for first place in the Atlantic Division. Maryland is coming off a shutout victory over now-unranked Wake Forest while NC State has lost their last three contests.

After Maryland's victory over Wake, they have now won their last five games against ranked opponents. However, on the flip side Maryland is 1-2 against I-A non-ranked (and losing record) opponents this season, and NC State is unranked and has a losing record. Let's hope the trend doesn't continue.

Scouting the Competition: NC State
Don't let that 2-5 record fool you, this is not a bad team anymore. Under the second season of Tom O'Brien, the Wolfpack are trying to regain their Philip Rivers days. But they have a long way to go. NC State has lost their last two contests against Maryland, including getting shutout 37-0 at home last year.

Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson has started to gain his stride with his last two games getting 218 yards and three scores against Boston College 181 yards and two scores against Florida State, both of whom are ranked, even though NC State lost both contests. But Wilson has shown himself to be an up and coming quarterback in the ACC.

The Wolfpack run a balanced offense, with 214 passes and 211 rushing attempts, but the running game has not been as helpful as the air attack. On the ground most of the carries go to senior Andre Brown, who averages 4.3 yards a carry and has three touchdowns, and is a bruiser; his longest rush attempt was 16 yards. Wilson's primary target is sophomore Owen Spencer, who has 405 receiving yards this season.

The defense has not been very threatening, they have given up at least 24 points in every contest. Granted their schedule has been real difficult, but it is still 24 points a game. The redshirt junior DE Willie Young has been a force, with two fumbles recovered and six tackles for loss. Their tackles leader is another redshirt junior, LB Ray Michel.

Things to look out for in today's game:
1. Which Chris Turner will show up?
It seems like we say this every week, but frankly it is true. Some games Turner is terrific, some he is flat out bad. Last game, Turner was very solid and was able to deal with an aggressive Wake defense when the rushing attack was not performing. On paper, Turner should be fine against the Wolfpack, but we will see who shows up.

2. Repeat from last week: Can Da'Rel Scott get back on track?
He was not bad on the ground, but his two lost fumbles nearly allowed Wake Forest to fight back. Davin Meggett was seeing important time on the ground ahead of Scott last week, and it makes everyone wonder if Scott will get back to form. No doubt Scott is the better runner, but he has not performed well since the Cal game. NC State allows 165+ yards a game on the ground; Scott will not have a better chance to get back on track.

3. Will the Terps underestimate Russell Wilson?
We have seen what happens if the Terps defense does not respect an opposing quarterback; they roll over them. Wilson may only be a freshman, but he has shown some good talent and the capability to make the big play. Maryland's LB corps will again be tested, and they will need to keep the status quo to win. If they can shut down Riley Skinner's squad to zero points, they can shut down Russell Wilson, just do not overlook him.

4. Will the weather be a factor?
The predicted forecast in College Park tomorrow is a lot of rain plus possibly heavy winds. At the Breakfast With the Fridge event Friday morning, Coach Friedgen said that the Terps were practicing with a wet football, so the Terps are trying to get ready for incoming weather. They haven't played in a bad weather game yet. Bad weather will affect the kicking game and the air attack, so Scott and Brown will probably see a lot of carries if the rain is bad.

Prediction- Maryland 24, NC State 13
Maryland does not blow out opponents like NC State, but they will secure the victory and earn their bowl eligibility. As long as they are not looking ahead to Virginia Tech.

(Photo credits: Baltimore Sun (Heyward-Bey), Terrapin Sports Report (Wilson))

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