Fearless Picks: WVU - Maryland

"Competitive shootout" might best describe the picks from our panel for the West Virginia - Maryland game. Only two selectors have a winning score prediction below 31 points, and most see both squads denting the scoreboard on a regular basis.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Cam Huffman took the picks lead by missing the WVU-NSU final score by just three points, but even that stellar effort wasn't the best of the week. Patrick missed last week's game by just two points to take home weekly honors.

In all, it was a great week for the board, with eight selectors missing the total points by ten or less.


NOSE PICKING

We may have to enforce some anti-collaboration rules on the picks, as no fewer than three selectors see the final score this week at 38-24. If the actual game hits that, it would certainly set a record for the number of exact score picks in the same week.


Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 9
I have a pretty good feeling about this game. The problem is I can't figure out if it's my head or my heart telling me to pick the Mountaineers.

Am I ignoring the problems with the offensive line because I want WVU to pull off the victory and set up a showdown with LSU? Am I trying to forget about the running game woes because I think the Mountaineers owe Randy Edsall some payback after handing his UConn team a gift of a Big East championship a year ago? Am I underestimating the matchup problem of Danny O'Brien against an unproven WVU secondary because I have enjoyed the good guys' recent dominance in the series so much more than the misery of the early years of Rich Rodgriguez against Ralph Friedgen? Am I shrugging off the Terps because I think "Fear the Turtle" is a ridiculous slogan and believe wearing a different uniform each week -- each one looking like something somebody would design as a joke -- is an unfathomable waste of money and an embarrassing way to try to bring attention to a football program?

Like the 2011 Mountaineers, my thoughts have produced more questions than answers. But there's just something I liked about the spark I saw in the second half last week and a quality of Dana Holgorsen that I can't quite pinpoint that gives me some confidence. Maryland may score some points, but few teams have the firepower to run a Jeff Casteel-coached defense out of the building. Geno Smith has the ability to put up just as much offense as O'Brien, and Maryland's defense is just as unproven as the Mountaineers'. It's going to be close, but I'm going with my gut.

Pick: West Virginia 31-26
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 10
One of the many things I loved about living in Arkansas was picking up new colloquialisms from the locals. I remember sitting at a diner counter in early December '09 when one of the old fellas who frequented the place struck up a conversation with me about our team, which to that point was undefeated but had not exactly played any bigtime opponents. We were a couple of days out from playing North Alabama, which has very good basketball tradition in the Gulf South. "You guys have looked great so far," he said, "but you'll really get your oil checked on Saturday."

The same can be said this week for West Virginia. Through two games, the Mountaineers have shown flashes of dominance, but also flashes of putridity. The bottom line, though, is that Marshall and Norfolk State are nowhere near the level of competition that Maryland is. Despite that, we've seen enough of this offense to know that even on its "off" days, its going to put up some points. This week will be no different. Yes, I worry about Maryland's running game, but I don't worry about the Terrapins outscoring the Mountaineers at the end of the day. WVU gets it done (just like Arkansas Tech did against UNA, for the record).

Pick: West Virginia 38-24
 
Brian Jolliff Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 17
Which WVU squad will take on the trip over the mountains on I-68? Will it be the anemic, error-filled and uninspired group that we saw in the first half of the Norfolk St. game? Our will it bus over an offensive squad that was running efficiently and racked up 45 second-half points?

This is a bellweather game for the new era West Virginia football program. It's a game that is certainly Maryland's biggest game of the year, as well, and will be a big test for both teams. Look for WVU to be looking ahead a bit on the schedule before coming to life and pulling out a win down the stretch

Pick: West Virginia 38-24
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 19
Points matter in this series – in 12 of the past 13 Border Battles, the winner has scored at least 30 points. Both offenses look like they can score this year as well. Both defenses have potential but still lots of questions. This game figures to be very close, and the key figures to be whether or not the Mountaineer defense can hold its own against Maryland's running attack.
Pick: Maryland 28-27
 
Patrick Southern Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 19
West Virginia enters this game with a slight disadvantage in that it only has one game's worth of film to scout the Terrapins, which is particular importance when trying to solve the puzzle of Maryland OC Gary Crowton's new scheme. Dana Holgorsen rightly noted that in their win against Miami, the Terps' attack looked a lot like what Holgorsen is trying to do in Morgantown -- quick passes to athletic players on the edge, spreading out opposing defenses to create one-on-one match-ups for those athletes in space and punishing those defenses with the running game when they are finally spread too thin.

The good news for Mountaineer fans is Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense traditionally excels at pursuit to the ball. Think back to those occasions Casteel's defense has been victimized over the years. Rarely has anyone managed to do so by running around West Virginia's players. But the power running game, a staple of Randy Edsall's offense at UConn, is still a force to be reckoned with, and Maryland's Davin Meggett is a player to watch closely in this game. If Meggett finds success, WVU might be in for a long day.

The thought here is that West Virginia was clearly the more talented of these two teams a year ago, and little has changed to narrow that gap considerably. If the Mountaineer offense can avoid the slow starts that have plagued it in the first two games of the season, this could be relatively smooth sailing. If not, prepare for a nail-biter.

Pick: West Virginia 34-23
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 24
Line of scrimmage issues continue to give me worry about this pick. Add that in with inexperienced runners and you have an offense that could be in trouble, no matter how explosive or talented it actually can become.

I'm not really sold on Maryland's win over Miami. Miami isn't the Miami of old, and they were without a slew of starters on defense. This Maryland team couldn't stop WVU last year, and last year's offense resulted in the essential firing of Bill Stewart and his entire offensive staff.

The Mountaineer defense isn't as good as it was last year, but it is still pretty stout. I just don't see Maryland being able to score enough points on this defense to keep up with Coach Dana's offense, and I don't see Maryland's defense holding WVU under 30.

This won't be easy, but the Mountaineers will prevail by winning the turnover battle and creating more stops. Maryland gets burned for focusing on Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey by the continued emergence of Ivan McCartney. Tyler Urban grabs another score as Geno continues to spread the wealth.

Pick: West Virginia 38-24
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 25
I'm as conflicted over this game as I have been with any over the last few years. Part of me thinks West Virginia has a talent advantage, and can play from behind much easier than can Maryland. The other part of me is worried about the methodical, ball-security, make-no-mistakes style of all Randy Edsall-coached teams, and this being the first road game of the Dana Holgorsen tenure. Maryland, to me, hasn't proven itself; neither has West Virginia. I'm not even sure we will know a heck of a lot more about the overall quality of either team after this game's played. But I do know Edsall is 1-6 all-time against WVU, and that one was gift wrapped. I know West Virginia can start slow and still score, whereas if UM gets down 21 it's tough sleddin'. And I trust Jeff Casteel and the defense, even as it continues to rebuild. The keys remain the same: don't turn the ball over, tackle and -- the big one -- block decently and the Mountaineers have an excellent chance to win a solid road game.
Pick: West Virginia 31-20
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 27
From Dunbar High School in NW Washington DC -- the alma mater of WVU freshmen Vernard and Vance Roberts -- you take the 96 bus to the U Street Metro stop, then take the Green Line to College Park. The trip takes about half an hour (assuming buses and subway are running on time) and costs $3.15 (less for senior citizens and DC public school students, which the Roberts twins were this time last year).

From Good Counsel High School in Silver Spring, Md. (alma mater of Troy Gloster), you can make the trip by bus and subway as well, but it will take about an hour or so. From Willie Milhouse's house in Waldorf, Md., it's maybe a 40 minute drive to College Park.

From Baltimore (Tavon Austin and Terence Garvin), New Windsor (John Bassler), Glen Burnie (Ryan Clarke), and Westminster, Md.(Jeff Braun), it's about a 45 minute drive to College Park.

From Springfield, Va. (Tyler Bitancurt) or Fairfax, Va (Pete Miller), it's about an hour or so. Also from the DC-Baltimore area are Mountaineers Devon Brown, Nick Cadwell, and J.D. Izon.

Oh, and BTW, in case you haven't heard, Chris Neild now lives in the DC area.

If you're counting, that's 14 Mountaineers and a recent alumnus who have every reason in the world to want to beat Maryland. Add to that the thousands of WVU alumni and fans in the area. Rumor has it that the National Capital Area Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association alone has more than 10,000 members. Apocryphal? Maybe, but I lived in DC for 26 years, and I can tell you that number is entirely possible. Then add in the alumni and fans in the Eastern Panhandle of WV, the Baltimore area, and the Annapolis area -- who all get the Washington Post or Baltimore Sun as their daily newspaper -- and there are a bunch of folks for whom this contest is more than your normal away game.

If that's not enough to get the Mountaineers to play a full, four-quarter game, I don't know what is. We cannot spot Maryland a half, or even a quarter, or even five minutes. Danny O'Brien is too good and Randy Edsall knows us too well to give away even one snap. Tavon, Vernard, Terence, Jeff: it is your responsibility to get your teammates pumped for this game. Explain to them that a victory over Maryland is, for you and all the people named above, akin to a victory over Pitt or marshall. Lead them onto the field ready to play. If you can do that, the rowdy, obnoxious Maryland fans will begin to trickle out of the stadium by halftime and all will be right in the world come Saturday night. If not . . . it could be a long day and maybe even a long season.

P. S. Are you still wondering why Oliver Luck agreed to play a couple of games at Fed Ex Field in the near future?

Pick: West Virginia 24-17
 
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 28
Maryland gained 499 yards and scores 32 points against Miami, but the Canes were down several players due to suspension, played a back-up QB and turned the ball over four times. Throw in that fact that the Terps have had two weeks to rest and gameplan for the Mountaineers, at this point is hard to tell how good the Terrapins really are.

Then we have the Jekyll and Hyde Mountaineers. After a sluggish start against the Herd, West Virginia started to get rolling until Mother Nature halted the WVU offense. So after the first game it was difficult to learn much about the Mountaineers other than the running game and offensive line struggled against a lower level team. Next, the Norfolk State Spartans stymied the Mountaineers for 30 minutes until some halftime motivation pushed the Blue and Gold to 45 unanswered points and a 55-12 win. But who are the 2011 edition of the Mountaineers?

Obviously this game will be very telling as to what to expect for the rest of the season, and although I think WVU will have a solid season, something tells me that the Terps top the Mountaineers on Saturday. With the spotty offensive line play, a struggling rushing attack, playing a team with a hot QB at home, it just adds up to a loss.

Pick: Maryland 31-28
 
Tony Dobies Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 35
I'm not buying into West Virginia's defense just yet. I just don't believe it has played well enough against sub-par competition to think it will hold Maryland without a touchdown on Saturday. Maryland has quarterback Danny O'Brien, who is perhaps the best signal caller the Mountaineers will face all season.

Offensively, I bet WVU comes out and does a few things that you haven't seen yet. It may not use Ryan Clarke or Shawne Alston in short-yardage situations like all Mountaineer fans want, but I do think you'll see a few players step up more in a game against a truly competitive team.

It's on the road, and WVU has a very young team. It will grow a lot in this game, and I think it will come down to a field goal either way. Expect Geno Smith to have another career day, and the running game to be a bit more successful.

My key to the game will be WVU's defense stopping the short passing game. If it can do so, the Mountaineers may win by more.

Pick: West Virginia 41-38

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