Friday, October 17, 2008

Pregame: Maryland vs. #21 Wake Forest

Now that we've all had two weeks to recover from that dreary, awful Maryland loss against Virginia, it's time for the Terps to get back to the gridiron.

The Maryland Terrapins (4-2, 1-1 ACC) host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Byrd Stadium at noon on Saturday. The winner will be in first place of Atlantic Division of the ACC, either Wake alone or Maryland tied with Florida State. Maryland didn't play last week and Wake Forest is coming off a 12-7 win against Clemson on Thursday last week, which would turn out to be Tommy Bowden's last game.

After the 31-0 loss to Virginia last week, Maryland has heard it from everyone from media to students to coaches. But even after that, Maryland has an opportunity to bounce back against the Deacs. But last year's Maryland-Wake game might have been worse; the Terps blew a 24-7 lead to lose 31-24 in overtime in Winston-Salem. Maryland is looking for revenge at home.

Scouting the Competition: #21 Wake Forest
Wake Forest is seasons removed from winning the ACC Championship and currently sit atop the Atlantic Devision with a 4-1 record. The Deacs have won the last two contests against the Terps, including last year's comeback win and the '06 game that got Wake into the ACC championship. Pregame-wise this is looking similar to the Maryland-California game, Maryland coming back to Byrd to face a ranked squad after a devastating road loss.

Riley Skinner (pictured) is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. He is a great story, a player very few looked at during high school. He only got one scholarship offer, and it was real late in the recruiting period, and that was Wake. He is in his third year starting and while he isn't a real deep threat, he is a solid game manager. If the game is close, he'll keep fighting well. He's completed 68% of his passes and already has a fourth quarter comeback, getting a touchdown against Clemson with a short pass to D.J. Boldin to eventually win it. Wake is a pass-first offense; they have 1,160 passing yards to only 495 rushing yards.

Skinner's cavalry are led by Boldin, who has 31 catches this year, but Skinner's seven touchdown passes have gone to six different targets. Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass share the carries on the ground, but neither has been effective; the two average 3.1 and 2.5 yards a carry respectively.

But the real focus of this team is the defense. The monster defense that has eight sacks, 10 interceptions, and forced six fumbles has only allowed 10 points to the ACC and only 15 per game. Watch out for Aaron Curry, one of the most dominating linebackers in the conference, who has 39 tackles. Other notable players are safety Kevin Patterson (3 INT, 2 FF), linebacker Stanley Arnoux (28 tackles, 3 TFL), and DT John Russell (15 tackles, 2.5 sacks).

Their star kicker and punter Sam Swank is questionable; my guess he isn't playing. This is huge, Swank is hands down the best kicker in the ACC and without him, Wake loses valuable chances at field goals and punting capabilities. The replacement has been Shane Popham, who isn't bad but he isn't Swank.

Some things to look out for to tonight's game:
1. Will the real Maryland please stand up?
Will we see the Terps that beat Cal, or lose to MTSU? Will we see the Terps that comeback against Clemson, or the ones that collapsed against Virginia? History has shown that Chris Turner and the Terps rebound well after a bad loss, and this year has been no exception. Can Maryland do it again?

2. Can the Terps defense hold up?
The linebacker core and the secondary are getting real thin due to injuries. Wake will be going to the air constantly, and if the Terps show weakness, Riley Skinner will find it, easily. Jeff Barker has the Terps injury report here. The good news is that the Deacs don't have a solid rushing attack, but if Skinner gets going, the Terps don't want to resort to dropping eight back. The blitz will need to be working well for Maryland to have a shot.

3. Can Da'Rel Scott get back on track?
Scott just hasn't been himself lately. After getting 100-yard days against Delaware and MTSU, then a solid game against Cal before he got hurt, he only got 75 yards combined on the ground against Clemson and Virginia (didn't play against Eastern Michigan). He still may be slightly hurt, but Scott need to get going eventually. Maryland just isn't the same without him, and as of right now, he's the only dependable running back. If Scott doesn't do well, the Terps will fall.

4. Can Chris Turner get back on track?
In Turner's five games at the helm, he's really only done well in two of them. Granted, they were the two home games including Cal, so a homecoming may do well for him. He's had a history of coming back strong after a bad Maryland loss; see BC after the UNC loss, and Rutgers after the Wake loss last season. His inconsistency is still showing, and he needs to bounce back against the Deacs.

Prediction-Maryland 24, Wake Forest 20.
Now, at ATH and in most media outlets, we haven't done well with predictions. On our previews, we are 2-4 at predicting Maryland scores. Just throwing that out there.

For this game, I believe Maryland will bounce back just enough to prevail. It won't be a convincing victory, but I got Maryland surviving a 4th quarter comeback attempt to win against Wake.

(Photo credits: Maryland athletics (Turner), Marc Serota (Skinner)

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