Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pregame: Maryland at Wake Forest

Maryland got a nice win last week, upsetting Clemson 24-21 and (somehow) sitting atop the Atlantic Division with a 1-0 conference record, but still has a long way to go for bowl contention at a 2-3 overall record. But, as Chris Turner said, win through the ACC and they can go to the Orange Bowl; at least they took the first step. But Maryland hits the road for the first time in a month as they head down to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest.

The Maryland Terrapins (2-3, 1-0 ACC) take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-2, 1-1 ACC) in a divisional matchup. This contest is also Wake Forest's homecoming game. In their two ACC contests, Wake fell to Boston College but defeated NC State. The highlight of their season came when defeating Stanford. Maryland leads the series 41-15-1, but even though the Terps won last year, the Deacs won the previous two meetings.

Scouting the Competition: Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Any talk about Wake Forest begins with their senior quarterback Riley Skinner (pictured), who is one of the most efficient in the conference. He has completed over 68% of his passes, but does have seven interceptions with his 11 touchdowns. This is a very pass-heavy offense, giving Skinner a number of targets. In just five games, four receivers have over 20 catches, lead by redshirt-junior Marshall Williams with over 400 yards and four scores. The Deacs have a very reliable offensive line; all five starters are redshirt-junior status or higher.

On the ground Wake has a pro-style; playing a few tailbacks and relying on a fullback in goal situations. Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass, and Kevin Harris all split carries, averaging less than 35 yards per carry. Redshirt-senior fullback Mike Rinfrette has three scores despite just 35 yards rushing.

The defense though average will probably start 11 players that have used a redshirt year. They can contain, but they likely will not win by forcing turnovers. Some of the key players of the 4-3 defense include redshirt sophomore end Tristan Dorty with four tackles for loss, and redshirt junior linebacker Hunter Haynes with 23 tackles. One problem for Wake is the secondary, as two members of the unit are one and two in tackles.

Things to look out for:
1. Will the Maryland rushing attack work?
Normally Maryland relies on the rushing attack, but two things will hinder its progress. First is Wake's decent rushing defense. But the more important reason is Da'Rel Scott's broken wrist. Maryland will employ a running back by committee with at least three players: Jeff Barker of the Baltimore Sun says Davin Meggett, Gary Douglas, freshmen D.J. Adams and Caleb Porzel could all see time on the ground. Morgan Green is not included, as the coaching staff has said he has not progressed well. I find it doubtful that the Terps would risk Porzel considering his injuries, but even with Scott out, none of the running backs have been good, so Maryland will need someone to step up and get some production. Maryland will have an added problem: Bruce Campbell is out of today's game.

2. Can Chris Turner lead Maryland to another win?
Wake's defensive weakness is in the secondary, and with a problematic running game, Turner will need to have a good day in the air for the Terps to win. He had a great game against Clemson and seemed to be leading the charge into conference play, and Maryland could get a huge morale boost with a win against Wake Forest. The air attack is key, and Chris Turner can make it happen.

3. Can the Maryland secondary handle Riley Skinner and the Wake passing game?
Last year Maryland shut down Skinner and Co., giving up no points all game. The secondary has changed much since then and has been hurt by injuries. Jamari McCollough returning has been helpful and Kenny Tate continues to improve, but the key may be on cornerback Cameron Chism, going into his third start, and Anthony Wiseman. They will deal with two of the key threats the Deacs have, and their success is key to stopping the Wake Forest offense.

Maryland certainly has the capability to win, but I feel they have too many problems that Wake can exploit. The secondary is hurt and is going against Riley Skinner, plus the running game is in dire straits. The Terps will keep it close, but will fall in Winston-Salem.

Wake Forest 24, Maryland 16

(Photo credit: Baltimore Sun (Maryland), (Skinner)

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