Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pregame: Maryland at Virginia

The Terps (4-1) are on a roll win-wise as they have won three straight, including an upset win over conference for Clemson last week. Maryland will try to improve to 2-0 in the ACC as they head into Charlottesville to tango with rival Virginia (1-3). On paper, this should be an easy win for Maryland, but we have heard that before when the complete opposite happens. In a rivalry game like this one, anything can happen.

Almost everyone in the ACC has been hearing about the troubles of Virginia. Their only win has come against the 1-AA squad Richmond and the other three losses were complete beatdowns from USC, Connecticut, and Duke. Yes, Duke. They have been the subject of ridicule from many sports radio shows spearheaded by Colin Cowherd's rant on how Virginia is the "softest team in the country." Al Groh is on the hot seat and is in more trouble than anyone else on the east coast. But Virginia has time to turn this around, and rival Maryland would be their start.

Two years ago, Maryland's trip to Charlottesville was considered the turnaround in their season. Down 20-0 at halftime and 20-7 after the third quarter, the Terps got three touchdowns in the fourth quarter capped by an Erin Henderson TD off an interception, holding off the Cavaliers 28-26. After that huge win, Maryland improved to 4-2 and won their next four, getting a trip to the Champs Sports Bowl. But last year, Virginia won on a 4th quarter last drive to win 18-17, breaking the Terps hearts in College Park. In their return, here are the questions:

Can Maryland look beyond Virginia's 1-3 record?
After a win against Clemson on the road, spirits are very high in the Terps camp. And it is easy for Maryland to overlook Virginia after the 31-3 beatdown the Cavs got from Duke. We have seen Maryland time and time again play to the level of their competition. Maryland just has to treat this like a rivalry game and keep the momentum from the second half of the Clemson game. Virginia on paper should be an easy win for Maryland, the Terps just need to be sure of that.

Can Da'Rel Scott bounce back?
Scott didn't good game against Clemson, and still may be affected by his injury. But he will play and lead the Terps offense. Still trying to find a replacement to Chris Long, UVA allows 173.2 rushing yards a contest, so look for Scott to receive a number of carries. If he can return to form like he had against California game, then Maryland will have no problem on the ground. Virginia has a few bright spots on defense, including freshman DE Matt Conrath who has five tackles for loss and senior LB Clint Sintim who has four sacks, but for Maryland, the running game should be able to dominate, it is mainly a matter if Da'Rel Scott is healthy.

Will the injuries hinder the defense?
The injuries keep piling up on the defensive side of the ball. Adrian Moten is now added to that list; he's out for at least a month. With a very thin secondary and LB core, Maryland will need to be careful but at the same time stop Virginia's offense. UVA's running game hasn't been effective all year, only averaging 66 yards a game on the ground. Passing has been more effective for Virginia, but the offense as a whole is very ineffective. The defense will need to buckle down early to put this game away quickly. Alex Wujciak has continued to be huge on the LB core with Moise Fokou, but again with a thin LB core, it will be hard for the defense to be effective if they have to be on the field 35+ minutes.

The opponent: Virginia Cavaliers (1-3, 0-1 ACC)

Virginia is looking for something to work after getting destroyed in two straight contests.

Marc Verica will likely be the starting quarterback despite a bad performance against Duke. Combined with all other Virginia passers, no touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Their main threat is WR Kevin Olgetree (pictured), a 2006 Honorable Mention All-ACC who has 22 catches and 11 punt returns. He had a bad knee injury last year, but he's recovered well and has been solid on the Hoos attack. The rushers are Mikell Simpson (48 rushes, 2.2 YPC) and Cedric Pearman (20 rushes, 4.8 YPC).

On defense the Hoos have allowed 379 yards of offense a game, and it is pretty balanced rushing and passing. Unless Maryland decides to not show up, the Terps should have no problem with Virginia.

Prediction- Maryland 27, Virginia 10

(Photo credits: Maryland athletics (Scott), (Olgetree))

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