Rushel Shell and the Mountaineers wrap up their non-conference slate with a border state battle against the Terrapins
West Virginia will enter Saturday looking for a clean sweep of its non-conference schedule before entering Big 12 play the following week. Maryland is coming off a good win against South Florida but still trying to fully recover from a devastating loss to Bowling Green at home two weeks ago as the Terrapins prepares for their second season in the Big Ten.
There are never any guarantees when these two get together. There is a history between these two ranging from recruiting to blowouts to heartbreaking defeats. Many will argue this isn’t a rivalry — I beg to differ.
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Maryland at West Virginia
Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: West Virginia -17
Three Things to Watch
1. Special Teams Play
Maryland leads the nation in starting field position at 38.7 (meaning the Terrapins start their drives on average on their own 38-yard line). Much of that ranking can be attributed to Maryland kick returner William Likely. Likely is currently averaging 29 yards per kick return and just over 28 yards per punt return.
On the other side of the field the Mountaineers boast one of the best field goal kickers in the nation, Josh Lambert. Lambert is averaging 2.5 field goals per game which is ranked second in the nation. His range and accuracy has garnered him national attention. Anything within 55 yards is within his range, making him a dangerous threat which Maryland knows all too well.
Not to be outdone, Maryland kicker Brad Craddock has quickly made a name for himself at Maryland. Coming off a season where he made 18-of-19 field goals, including a game-winner against Penn State, Craddock is quickly becoming the face of Terrapins football.
Expect special teams to play a large role in this game. Whether or not it will be a determining factor in the outcome is yet to be determined but it would not be surprising.
2. Maryland's Secondary
While the Terps' secondary showed improvement against South Florida it revealed drastic weaknesses against Bowling Green two weeks ago. Despite having the most experienced unit on the team, Maryland’s secondary gave up 491 passing yards and six touchdowns against the Falcons.
The Mountaineers have always based their offensive schemes off the spread. Although Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen has stated they have become a run first offense they are not scared to throw the ball. With threats like true freshman Jovon Durante and Shelton Gibson on the outlines the Terrapins may be in for a long day. The Mountaineers also boast the No. 1 team pass efficiency ranking in the nation.
3. It’s Still A Rivalry
Maryland and West Virginia have never been in the same conference. However, that has not stopped this annual game from becoming a rivalry. WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen still remembers what happened to the Mountaineers two years ago in Baltimore when the Terrapins embarrassed them to the tune of 37-0. He calls it one of the worst losses he has experienced as a coach.
Likewise Maryland definitely remembers losing to the Mountaineers at home last season 40-37 on a 47-yard field goal as time expired.
This will be the last meeting between the two schools until 2020. West Virginia leads the all-time record against the Terrapins 27-22-2.
Special teams may very well play an important role in Morgantown this Saturday. The Terrapins have not played in Morgantown since 2012 and Mountaineer fans can’t wait for their return. The Mountaineers should be able to take advantage of the Maryland secondary just like the Terrapins should be able to take advantage of the Mountaineers' kickoff coverage. West Virginia will be able to score through the air and if they are able to finish strong in the red zone the Terrapins may be in for a long day.
Maryland will have to scratch to get into scoring position against a Mountaineer defense that doesn’t bend. Maryland’s best chance at sustaining drives will be on the ground as keeping the ball away from the Mountaineers' secondary will be a must.
Prediction: West Virginia 34, Maryland 17
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.