Somehow, the Maryland Terrapins are 3-2 on the season, 1-0 in the ACC (Wake Forest), while the Virginia Cavaliers are struggling at 2-4 on the season, 0-2 in the conference. I don't understand how that can be. They didn't even have a quarterback to start the season. Meanwhile, we had two, maybe even three viable options!
To help us understand Maryland a little better, we're joined by Ben Broman from Testudo Times. And check it out - I returned the favor but would like to point out that, they can try to call us their Mexico, but until ever since their president said that, "Here at Maryland, we don't lose to Virginia," they shouldn't be calling us anything but "Uncle."
Streaking The Lawn: Obviously Maryland sustained some pretty remarkable personnel losses leading up to the season. At the halfway point, how do you assess freshman quarterback Perry Hills? How would you describe his style?
Testudo Times: As far as his style goes, I've always thought Perry has a little Jake Locker in him. He's a big strong guy (wrestled in high school), can make plays with his legs, has a decent arm but it can be pretty questionable at times too. His physical tools aren't as good as Locker's, of course, but I think mentally he's pretty far ahead - he's a real leader and tough as nails.
But he's just too young right now to be an ACC-level starting QB. He just can't make the reads and progressions under pressure that you want to see, and he doesn't have the physical tools - the arm, in particular - to make up for it. He floats deep balls, overthrows screens, puts his head down when he sees pressure. And to top it off he's inconsistent, waffling between good games and bad games every week. (Seriously, every week. Check his game log.) In other words, he's a young quarterback. Only the best of the best can step in as a true freshman against this type of competition and perform well. Perry is, I think, doing as well as ayone could've expected him to do, but that's cold comfort when Maryland's offense is struggling as much as it is.
STL: And just to build on my last question, at least by their record, Maryland seems to be overachieving (I admittedly had next-to-zero expectations). Would you say Maryland is meeting, or achieving, preseason expectations?
TT: Yeah, they're definitely overachieving. In part that's because they had pretty low expectations, you're right. But on paper this team isn't as good as last year's team, which led to a lot of people writing off this year (and pretty reasonably, I'd say). That they've won three games is a mild suprise, but the bigger surprise is that they've played so well. The Wake Forest game was ugly, but they were a bad punt away from beating UConn and two turnovers away from beating West Virginia. They legitimately outplayed WVU in Morgantown, when any rational observer was expecting them to get run out of the stadium. Again, they're a young team, which means they're hugely inconsistent. But they've played much better than anyone had the right to expect, and especially have displayed a lot more fight and moxie than last year's team.
STL: Virginia's offense has struggled getting into any sort of rhythm so far this year. What do the Hoos need to exploit in order to find success against the Terps?
TT: Two things. First, pass, and pass deep. Each of Maryland's opponents, save West Virginia, has tried to run the ball and not one has found any real measure of success. Eventually, each of them stopped banging their head against a wall and decided to throw it deep, and they were rewarded with a big play. Maryland's secondary is young, not all that good, and worst of all prone to at least one miscommunication or blown coverage every game. A good QB-WR combo can tear them apart, especially with the deep ball.
Second: capitalize on opportunities. Maryland's offense or special teams will probably set UVA up with a short field at least once, maybe twice. The Terrapins' defense has done a good job limiting those short fields to field goals, and that's a big reason Maryland has three wins on the year. Put up seven points on a short field instead of three, because odds aren't great that they'll be able to consistently sustain drives.
STL: You all reported earlier this week that there are personnel changes coming to Maryland's offense. Has there been any update on this yet?
TT: The big change is that, instead of going with a four-player running back committee, carries will start to go to Justus Pickett and Wes Brown with some degree of exclusivity. That's a good sign, since Pickett and especially Brown have been Maryland's two most productive and consistent backs this year. Past that, things are pretty much being kept under wraps, but I think it's too late in the year to make wholesale changes anywhere. One thing to keep an eye on is something of a Wildcat package for backup QB Devin Burns, who was at wide receiver before the preseason injury to C.J. Brown forced him back under center. Edsall said after the Wake Forest game that they were prepared to play him but didn't see the right opportunity, but given his frustration with how the offense looked against WF, I wouldn't be surprised to see it Saturday.
STL: Rank these four ACC teams: Boston College, Maryland, Virginia, Wake Forest.
TT: I'll be a homer and say Maryland, Virginia, Wake, and Boston College, but in reality I think Maryland and Virginia are probably too close to call. I think it's clear that both UMD and UVA are better than Wake and BC, I'm just not sure past that. Virginia has the most talent of the four, easily, but they seem to be struggling in translating that into wins. Maryland seems better-coached - something I never thought I'd say with Randy Edsall still in College Park - and without a doubt has more fight than the other four. They'll get better as the year goes on as their young guys get more experience, and I think the presence of Stefon Diggs just barely tips things toward Maryland's way. Of course, watch me look like a fool when one team gets blown out on Saturday.
STL: Alright let's hear it. How does this one shake out?
TT: It's so tough to tell because both teams seem to have some serious inconsistency issues. Maryland shows up about every other game; Virginia is better than their record indicates. I think the Terrapins are calling in some favors with the football gods this year after last year's debacle and losing C.J. Brown early in the year - they're getting a little lucky and grinding out wins even though they have the look of a 2-10 team. If I had to take a guess, I'd say that Maryland continues to get some bounces and ekes it out, since Good Hills is scheduled to show up and there's just enough discontinuity on Virginia's offense for Maryland's defense to keep it really low-scoring. I wouldn't be surprised to see anything, but for now I'll say Maryland by something like 20-17.