Fearless Picks: Maryland

Youngster Chris Richardson takes the early lead after two four-point misses in the first two weeks of the season, but there is still a lot of time for the old guard to catch up. This week's selections could produce some serious shakeups in the standings as there are some differing opinions as to the point spread on the WVU-Maryland game.

Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 8
After two weeks of picks, I'm still standing at the top...right where I was all of last season. I've nailed the opponent score in each of the season's first two weeks, but have underestimated the Mountaineers by being off by four points each time. Hopefully this week, Coach Rod and his players will cooperate with me. It's still early in the season, though. Keep in mind that Pat Buchanan won the 1996 New Hampshire GOP primary before taking his annual spot with Alan Keyes near the bottom of the race. (Note: this analogy would work better for Matt Keller given both his politics and his place in the standings.)

On to the game. If you haven't heard, Maryland snubbed Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt. Just in case you hadn't heard that this week, I thought I'd bring it up. Oh, also this game serves as a barometer for both teams. You might not have heard that one either. No matter what angle you take, there's no denying that the Mountaineers are just a much better football team than Maryland this year. They'll show that on Thursday night.

Pick: West Virginia 31-13
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 18
After dominating the Mountaineers through the 2001-2003 seasons, including the 2004 Gator Bowl the Terps have lost the last two meetings against West Virginia. After Thursday's game, the Mountaineers will hold a three game winning streak, repeating the feat accomplished in 1996-1998 and 1991-1993. This year's version of the Terrapins do not possess the experience or speed to stop the Gold and Blue.
Pick: West Virginia 35-10
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 21
At some point in their lives, everybody, no matter how much faith they have, stops believing in the fat man in the red suit. For many Maryland fans that transformation has already happened. After setting the college football world on fire, winning at least 10 games a season from 2001-03, Terrapin head coach Ralph Friedgen has been brought back to reality. The Terps have won a total of just 10 games in the last two years, and those who have not given up on the man who thinks of himself as the James Naismith of football are looking for just one more reason to abandon ship.

Maryland is not the same team that West Virginia faced in the Gator Bowl, three seasons ago, possibly because they no longer have the WVU playbook, but it may still be ready to give the Mountaineers a test. West Virginia has been the superior team the last two seasons, but both games have come down to the wire. On a Thursday night in front of a sellout crowd, there is nothing Friedgen and his troops would enjoy more that ending the Mountaineers' hopes of a perfect season. That being said, Rodriguez's disdain for Friedgen is just as strong of a power, and the Mountaineer head coach will certainly not let his team overlook the fighting turtles. West Virginia will be ready to play, and we all know how the team has performed in night games under Coach Rod.

The game may be close for at least a little while, but in the end West Virginia's superior talent will win out. Steve Slaton will keep his postseason award possibilities alive with 150 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown, and Patrick White will once again answer the critics who claim he cannot throw the football with an equal total through the air. Maryland's dominance of the Mountaineers is over, and WVU will take the lead in the series, as well as dealing another blow to the diminishing Atlantic Coach Conference.

Pick: West Virginia 31-17
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 21
As long as WVU can run the ball effectively and stop the Terps' ground game, the Mountaineers shouldn't have too much difficulty.
Pick: West Virginia 35-17
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 27
Lessons learned in the blowout over Eastern Washington will enable Coach Rich Rodriguez to open up the offense. The emergence of backup QB Jarret Brown enables the Mountaineers to set Patrick White loose. And the emergence of a running game behind Steve Slaton enables WVU to use more of their two back sets that seem difficult to defend.

Meanwhile, Maryland continues to search for stability under the large shadow of Ralph Freidgen. Look for Maryland to try to take advantage of the thin WVU secondary. Look for the Mountaineers to catch Maryland unprepared for the WVU air assault then fall victim to the improvement of Steve Slaton, who undoubtedly plays with a chip on his shoulder this week, courtesy of the last- minute scholarship snub pulled by the man who has been banned from all- you-can-eat buffets in the tri-state area.

Pick: West Virginia 40-17
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 28
After two warmup scrimmages, the WVU football season moves into a more serious phase this week with the arrival of the Maryland Terrapins. Maryland is always challenging, even when it shouldn't be. There's no love lost between RRod and the Fridge, and there's no love lost between the extensive WVU community in the DC area and the Twerp faithful. Everyone who came to Morgantown to support our opponent in the season opener who is complaining about the atmosphere at Mountaineer Field and in the Blue Lot should have to walk the gauntlet at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland wearing opposing colors for a Saturday or two. That should disabuse them of any silly notions about the alleged misbehavior of Mountaineer fans. A couch and epithet or two is no comparison for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the businesses of College Park and the kind of abuse the people in red and white and gold and black (can't they decide on a couple of colors?) dish out.

The Mountaineers win the game and the battle of the state songs ("Country Roads" and "The West Virginia Hills" beat "O, Christmas Tree" every time).

Pick: West Virginia 34-10
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 2-0 Pt Diff: 36
Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen has said before that he views West Virginia's no-huddle, spread attack as a "pop-gun, flash-in-the-pan offense" and one that could not be seriously run at a high level in Division I-A. What the mastermind might not have foreseen is every BCS champion running a version of the offense invented by a coach for which he has little respect.

The two staffs don't like each other. It's everything from styles and schemes to the potshots taken by Friedgen and even Maryland's snub of the Mountaineer Marching band last year, shoving "The Pride" into seats that were in an end zone corner and didn't even face the field. The response after the 31-19 WVU beat down that wasn't that close? Head coach Rich Rodriguez staying on the field at Byrd Stadium to direct the band in a celebratory rendition of ‘Hail, West Virginia.'

West Virginia no longer fears the turtle. After four consecutive defeats to start his WVU career, Rodriguez has beaten UM twice in as many years, the latter of which led the now-predictable postgame comments by Friedgen to include: "Maybe after four years they are finally catching on to what we do." After four years, the truth is that Maryland's program is slipping. Its offensive line is too slow and unathletic. It lacks the overall speed and agility of West Virginia. And its recruiting as been more miss than hit of late, as evidenced by the snub of Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt, both of whom were told by the Maryland coaches that they were not wanted, though both fit the offense Friedgen now coordinates.

The Mountaineers will win this game, and they will do it in solid fashion. They will be every bit as physical as Maryland, and their speed will make up for any defensive problems, such as covering the tight end and crossing patterns. The only two times I can recall feeling this confident heading into a huge game against very good competition was when West Virginia dominated Virginia Tech 30-17 in a 1997 game at Mountaineer Field that also wasn't as close as the score indicated and last basketball season when WVU walloped top-ten Oklahoma 92-68 in the Sooner state. The match-ups then, as they do now, benefit the Mountaineers, as do the intangibles and pre-game psychology.

The Terps hit a big play or two through the air, perhaps confusing free safety Quinton Andrews. They will move the ball. But, in the end, too much athleticism, speed and pure ability lifts West Virginia to a very good win on national television. Night games at Mountaineer Field are special, and this should be no different. It's also the last time to watch West Virginia at home for one month. Take advantage for a game that will springboard the Mountaineers onto bigger things while relegating Maryland to the second-tier ACC program into which it is developing.

Pick: West Virginia 34-17

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