The No. 8 ranked West Virginia University football team (2-0) returns to Morgantown after a 30 point victory over JMU last Saturday. This Saturday, they take on border rival Maryland (2-1) of the ACC at Mountaineer Field.
Coming into the third game of the season, the WVU offense is clicking on all cylinders and quarterback Geno Smith has shot up many postseason awards lists. This Maryland defense may be the toughest they've had to face so far this season. They have given up 19 points per game.
West Virginia ranks 2nd only to Marshall in passing yards per game with 386, while Maryland is 6th in the country in passing yards allowed per game defensively with 124.3. While the Terps have yet to see a QB like Geno Smith, Smith also hasn't seen a defense like Maryland brings to the table.
"They seem like they're big, physical guys," Quarterback Coach Jake Spavital said. "They've held teams to about 60 plays a game so they're off the field which is a good thing. I don't know how much tempo they've seen because we are a high tempo team at times so we'll see how they handle that. I think they do a good job at just mixing things up and they just play aggressive and sound football and we haven't seen very many teams that have done that versus us yet but we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Maryland defense hasn't been quite as good in the run game, but they have still been respectable in this category. They've allowed 103 yards per game rushing which is good for 29th nationally. WVU's offense is in a similar situation with their run game, ranking 26th and averaging 226 yards per game on the ground.
"It's going to be a challenge to run the ball just because they have a good run defense but I think we'll just take it on as a challenge," running back Shawne Alston said. "We're going to go out there and try and make things happen against them. We're going to run the ball and we're also going to get involved in the passing game like we always do."
I believe that the play of Maryland native Tavon Austin will be the key on this side of the ball. Can he make a statement in his last chance against the home state Terrapins?
"I didn't go there but at the same time I'm from there," wide receiver Tavon Austin said. "It's a good feeling to be playing Maryland again for my family. My cousin played there so there's always a couple of bragging rights against him. At the end of the day, I'm just thankful that they gave me the opportunity but I chose to come to West Virginia and it should be a good game."
For the WVU defense, they need to take advantage of what has been an injury plagued and very young offense for Maryland. The Terps are 99th in the nation in points per game at 21.3 and 118th out of 120 in yards per game at 258.3.
True freshman quarterback Perry Hills has struggled thus far, throwing three touchdowns and four interceptions. They have also had their struggles on the ground with the trio of Wes Brown, Justus Pickett and former WVU commit Albert Reid.
The key for the WVU defense is being able to put pressure on a young quarterback and not allow Hills to get away from pressure. He has never played in an environment like he will play in this Saturday.
"Our crowd is going to have a huge part in it," linebacker Doug Rigg said. "It's going to be so loud on 3rd down and we need to get after him because once a freshman gets confidence, they play like a veteran."
The weather is questionable at this time for the game. It is currently calling for a high of 72 degrees and a 40% chance of scattered thunderstorms.
The game will be at noon ET and will be aired on FX.