Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thursday Night Pregame: #23 Maryland at Virginia Tech

Maryland gets their first game to defend their #23 BCS ranking, a Thursday night battle against Virginia Tech on national television. The Hokies have often been a major problem for Maryland, especially for Ralph Friedgen, who has never beaten Frank Beamer's squad.

The Maryland Terrapins (6-2, 3-1 ACC) head to Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (5-3, 2-2 ACC) in a match of strong ACC squads. A Maryland win would ensure the Terps hold first place in the Atlantic Division for another week plus put more pressure on Florida State. Maryland has won their last two games against Wake Forest and NC State and five of their last six, while Virginia Tech has lost their last two games on the road to Boston College and Florida State.

Maryland played two games with a ranking in 2006. The first was a very upsetting and close win against Miami 14-13 in College Park, the second a blowout loss to Boston College in Chestnut Hill. The Terps were close to getting a ranking earlier this year after their victory over Clemson, but finished 26th in the AP poll before getting shutout by Virginia.

Scouting the Competition: Virginia Tech

Right now, Virginia Tech is the only powerhouse in the ACC year in year out, while other traditional powerhouses like Miami, Florida State, and Clemson have lost their consistency. Despite some early short comings, Frank Beamer has adjusted and kept the Hokies to be a formidable opponent. However, key injuries have put V-Tech in a hard spot.

The Hokies top two quarterbacks are both listed as questionable with ankle problems; the starting sophomore dual threat Tyrod Taylor (pictured), and the redshirt senior Sean Glennon. Taylor is a dangerous player, having more rushes than passes, but with a hurt ankle, his speed would not be as effective. But when healthy, he averages 5.4 yards a rush plus he has a 56.7% completion percentage. If neither can go, the starter will likely be redshirt senior Corey Holt, who only saw limited time in the last game. If at all possible, Beamer will avoid using Holt, if either Taylor or Glennon can play, they will.

But the main focus of the Hokies is running the football. Redshirt freshman Darren Evans has seen the most carries with 130 and averaging four yards a carry. Taylor is the more dangerous threat, getting 5.4 yards a carry, rushing the ball 82 times.

On defense, 6'2'' 255 lb defensive end Orion Martin already has 5.5 sacks plus five other tackles for loss. On the other side, 6'2'' 254 lb DE Jason Worlids has 8.5 tackles for loss and has hurried the QB 12 times. Maryland's O-line will have a lot of trouble. But the passing defense is not as strong, more than 500 yards more has been given up in the air than on the ground.

Things to look out for in tonight's game:
1. How will Maryland game plan for Virginia Tech QB problem?
Virginia Tech's three different possible quarterback starters are all different to game plan against. Taylor is a scrambler, Glennon is a pocket passer, and I doubt the Terps have much game film of Holt. Even though this hurts the Hokies much more, Maryland needs to be ready for anything. They don't play well in Blacksburg, and they also haven't fared well at night.

2. What will the Terps running situation be?
Da'Rel Scott is questionable for the game, and with the very strong Hokie running defense, chances are Davin Meggett and Morgan Green will not be as effective as Scott can be. Even though Maryland will probably have more success in the air, it is important that the running game get established.

3. Can Chris Turner keep it up?
Turner has been solid his last two games, but history shows he is still inconsistent. With the weakness of Virginia Tech in the passing game, it is important that Turner and Darrius Heyward-Bey have strong days.

4. How will the Terps play will expectations?
Maryland normally does not play well as the big boys, instead enjoying life as the underdog. Right now, the Terps are the ranked team heading into Blacksburg, and they will need to stay consistent despite the target on their back.

A lot of this stems on the health of Tyrod Taylor, and by all accounts, he won't be 100%. Because of that, the Hokie offense will not generate enough, and despite the fact Maryland doesn't play well on Thursday night games, I give them the slight nod.

Maryland 20, Virginia Tech 17

(Photo credits: Baltimore Sun (Meggett), Washington Post (Taylor)

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