Commentary: WVU Faces Season-Defining Test

The hypothetical preseason is over for West Virginia. Now, it's time to strap it up, and play some real competition.

The No. 18 Mountaineers have done what it's needed to do through its first two games to set up a brutal two-game non-conference stretch.

On Saturday, WVU will travel to Maryland to face an underrated Terrapins team led by first-year head coach Randy Edsall. Then, WVU comes back to tackle No. 3 LSU at home in a potential primetime showdown with ESPN's College GameDay in town.

GameDay will only happen, of course I'd think, if the Mountaineers were able to take care of business against Maryland.

It's easier said than done.

"They're obviously a good football team. It's challenging. They've won some games, they've got kids that are used to winning and guys that were highly recruited. I saw that Maryland has the 10th-highest number of former players on NFL rosters right now," said WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen. "It's obviously a place where they have an abundance of talent. We're looking forward to the challenge. If we want to consider ourselves a top 20 team, win a national championship or go to a BCS bowl game, then we've got to beat teams like this. We're looking forward to the challenge."

Believe me: This is the biggest game of the year right now for WVU.

It might be the most important game of the season for the Mountaineers, as well. WVU has yet to define itself in 2011.

If West Virginia is to win on Saturday, it will have to do it in a way that truly signifies how the Mountaineers will play this year and under Holgorsen throughout his time here.

I'm not sure what West Virginia really is right now. From what Holgorsen said on Tuesday, his offense hasn't shown much of its playbook yet. In addition, as I've said before, I just don't know if I'm ready to buy into this defense, either.

The Mountaineers played the 106th overall offense when it faced Marshall, and a so-so offense against Norfolk State. There just hasn't been much to go against yet.

The entire team will be able to prove something to everyone on Saturday. This is a great gauge of where West Virginia stands against a program with similar athletes.

The Terrapins are much more talented than Marshall and Norfolk State. And, they have a win against a team, Miami (Fla.), which is more talented than the two teams WVU has faced this season, as well.

In one game, Maryland put up 499 yards of offense against a Miami defense that is commonly known one of the best and most talented in the country on a yearly basis.

In addition, the Mountaineers will face probably the best quarterback it will see all season this weekend. Danny O'Brien threw for 348 yards against Miami and is the eighth-best quarterback in the country in terms of passing yards per game.

Even before that game vs. Miami two weeks ago, O'Brien proved that he could be a solid quarterback. Last year, he threw for 2,438 yards, 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Those are stunning numbers for a first-year starter that didn't have the job to start the year and didn't see the field much until the team's fourth game.

All that being said, if West Virginia comes out vs. Maryland like it did in the second half on Saturday against Norfolk State, it can't lose, right?

It's time to find out just how good WVU will be in 2011. Are the Mountaineers the 18th-best team in the country? Are they better? Worse?

Tune in Saturday at noon and find out.

And after all of that, then it will be time to talk LSU.

"This week is 100 percent about Maryland. Based on the outcome of the game, our job is to prepare for the next opponent like we would any other," Holgorsen said. "That's how we're going to approach it – I'm not going to veer from that."


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