BlueGoldNews.com's Kevin Kinder had these questions for TurtlesportsReport.com's Rachel Klein:
Q: With the Terps off to their best start in several years, what has the fan reaction been like? Will Maryland be able to get a home atmosphere in Baltimore, given the cost of the tickets and the distance from College Park?
A: Maryland is 3-0 for the first time since 2001, but I wouldn't say fans are overwhelmingly excited about Maryland football right now. However, a big part of that is the Terps first three opponents weren't the most exciting or talented teams. Even though Saturday's game will take place in Baltimore rather then College Park, I think there will be a lot of red and black in the stands especially since it gives fans a chance to go to a game in Ravens Stadium for less than they would typically pay for an NFL game (albeit it is not NFL football, its the experience).
The school has done a pretty good job getting out to get the students involved, I know they were giving away a ton of tickets all over campus. So to sum it up, I think Maryland will be represented. Because so many fans will actually be there it might feel a little different considering Maryland has yet to play in front of a full stadium this season (home or away).
Q: What unit on the team has shown the most improvement from last year? Was that expected or a surprise?
A: Well the easy answer is the quarterback. Maryland had four quarterbacks go down with season-ending injuries and finished the season with a linebacker under center. So it wasn't too hard to improve there, but even if it had been, fifth-year junior C.J. Brown would still be a difference maker with the way he is playing. Brown has always been able to run the ball, but he returned to the field this season having significantly improved his passing game making him a true dual-threat and he is playing his best football right now.
The not so obvious answer is Maryland's defensive line, which has been the biggest surprise of the season. Maryland lost six starters off the defense, which ranked 21st in the nation last season, so a slight drop off was expected. However, there was no drop off. In fact, the defensive line in particular is even stronger this year and ranks 17th nationally in total defense and leads the nation in sacks with 15.
Outside linebacker Marcus Whitfield has been down right nasty off the line of scrimmage, he had three sacks alone against UConn and has 5.5 already this season. When he isn't getting to the quarterback he still manages to wreak havoc with tipped balls and quarterback hurries. The biggest surprise of the season has probably been Whitfield's counterpart, Yannick Cudjoe-Virgil, who sat out last season after transferring from Seton Hill. Cudjoe-Virgil wasn't necessarily expected to be a major contributor when he arrived on campus, but the coaches consistently talked about his work ethic. Cudjoe-Virgil hasn't forgotten about all the Division I programs that over looked him during his recruitment and he plays with a massive chip on his shoulder. He translated that fury onto the field were he has already accounted for 3.5 sacks this season as a crucial part of Terps pass rush.
Q: 3) Is it an advantage for West Virginia to have already played one tough opponent, or is Maryland in a better position as it has gradually ramped up its opposition so far?
A: I would say WVU probably has the advantage. Maryland needed a cupcake or two to get some experience for its patch work offensive line to work out the kinks, and it was probably good for C.J. Brown to get into a rhythm before facing a tougher opponent, but the Terps really haven't faced any stuff competition so they don't necessarily know how much better they need to be yet. Saturday will be Maryland's first chance to gauge how good or bad they actually are. Thing might be going just a bit too smoothly for the Terps so far, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Rachel then turns the tables with these WVU questions:
Q: Is this a big rivalry for WVU fans too? Maryland hasn't beaten the Mountaineers in seven years, so do the fans and the team for that matter view the Terps as easy win?
A: An easy win? No. Both teams come into the game with very similar profiles -- wins over clearly inferior teams, some promising improvement over performances of a year ago, but still with a lot of unanswered questions. The importance of this game is clear, and for West Virginia it is taking on a little more heat due to the fact that the Mountaineers don't play many of their traditional eastern opponents any longer, after their departure to the Big 12.
WVU hopes to keep this series going, and to play some other out of conference games with teams like Pitt, Penn State and Virginia Tech in future years, but for the next several years Maryland is the only "traditional" opponent on the Mountaineer schedule. That's going to ramp up the intensity -- especially if both teams are playing well. When Maryland joins the Big Ten, I'd expect to see a similar scenario play out in College Park.
Q: Life post Smith, Bailey and Austin... What have you seen from Ford Childress? Is he guy from here on out, or is he on a tight leash? And is this the same prototypical air-raid offense we've seen from WVU in years past?
A: It is Childress' job to lose now, and he'll get some room for growing pains. If things go sour you can't rule out a change down the line, but barring a total meltdown he will take all the snaps against the Terrapins.
The offense does change a little from year to year, and with Childress you'll see a little more downfield passing, especially since Austin isn't there to take all the short throws and jet sweeps in the open field. WVU will run the ball a little more, and like Maryland is developing a more balanced attack. A lot will depend on how the Terps defend WVU -- will they again try to take away the run as they did a year ago?
Q: WVU hasn't allowed more than 17 points this season, quite a change from a year ago. How much has the defense improved? How will they match up with Diggs, Long and company?
A: The pass defense does look better, but again, circumstances have helped that. William and Mary and Georgia State were no threat to throw the ball, and Oklahoma chose a ground attack that put no pressure on the secondary.
WVU is deeper on the defensive line and has really good safeties, but the lack of a pass rush (especially compared to that of Maryland's) is a concern. WVU's corners do look more prepared this year, but this will be a challenge unlike what they have seen so far under first-year assistant coach Brian Mitchell. Expect to see deep help from the safeties and lots of zone -- one-on-one match-ups would definitely be in Maryland's favor.