Maryland vs. Virginia: how to watch, listen, odds, storylines to follow

Maryland (2-0, 0-0 B1G) vs. Virginia (0-2, 0-0 ACC)
When: Fri., Sept. 15 | 7:05 p.m. EST
Where: SECU Stadium
Watch: FS1 – Eric Collins, Devin Gardner
Listen: 105.7 FM (Balt) / 980 AM (DC) – Johnny Holliday, Steve Suter, LaMont Jordan
Odds: Maryland -14.5, O/U 47 (DraftKings as of 12 AM on Sept. 15)

Friday night brings back an old ACC rivalry when Maryland takes on Virginia for the first time since jumping to the Big Ten. Maryland will look to move to 3-0 for the third consecutive season in hopes of picking up its eleventh consecutive nonconference win, along with defeating an ACC opponent in four consecutive tries.

That’s what’s on the line when the two border foes square off for the 79th time in the all-time series, with Maryland leading 44-32-2.

Led by second-year head coach Tony Elliott, Virginia hung around early against eleventh-ranked Tennessee in week one before the Vols ran away in the second half. More bad news for the ‘Hoos came when Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett suffered a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter, leading quarterback Anthony Colandrea into his first collegiate action. Colandrea made his first career start as the true freshman showed flashes against James Madison, retaking the lead in the second half along with a 35-24 lead into the fourth quarter before the Dukes’ last-minute heroics handed Virginia its second straight loss.

The betting line has stayed consistent through the week, with Maryland favored by 14.5 points with the O/U down from 50 to 47, per DraftKings. As Maryland looks to move to 13-1 in nonconference games under head coach Mike Locksley, we break down what to watch for against Virginia.

Starting fast on offense

After finding themselves in a 14-0 deficit minutes into the game, head coach Mike Locksley wasn’t shy about the Terps’ start six days ago against Charlotte.

“Our standard is to start fast and finish strong and we didn’t do either one of those two things,” he added. That message was reiterated again on Tuesday, but the team moved on quickly with a late Saturday game.

Against a Virginia team that statistically sits at or near the bottom of the ACC in every major defensive category through two weeks, Maryland’s offense led by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa will have a chance to do exactly that.

Tagovailoa is expected to have another receiver at his disposal with Tyrese Chambers back on the field, as expected. Through two games, the Terps offense has had its ups and downs, but it looked like they found their stride last week after scoring touchdowns on four of their first five drives after halftime. After a pair of poor reads leading to interceptions in last week’s win, Taulia prepares for a Virginia secondary that is still one of two teams yet to have generated at least one interception, giving him a chance to find his groove with the abundance of options in the passing attack.

Tight end Corey Dyches was the top receiver in the Towson game, catching six passes for 108 yards. Receiver Kaden Prather led the team in receiving yards in week two with 80 and has the team lead in receiving touchdowns with two. Jeshaun Jones is a proven veteran who can make a big catch at any point, and so can Tai Felton and Octavian Smith Jr. Finding rhythm in the passing attack, along with trimming the drops that have plagued the unit through the first two weeks, is the biggest point of emphasis with Big Ten play looming.

Winning the battle on the ground

This is where Maryland has the biggest advantage heading into Friday night as the Terps and Cavs tell the tale of two different teams when it comes to success on the ground.

Maryland’s ground attack wore down Charlotte last week as they finished with over seven yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns, led by none other than Roman Hemby, who continues to play like one of the Big Ten’s best running backs.

Hemby enters Friday first in the Big Ten and 11th in the FBS in all-purpose yards per game (144.5) and second in the Big Ten in both rush yards per carry (7.1) and rushing yards (220) as he’ll lead a ground game that has a chance to dominate Virginia’s front seven. Colby McDonald could have a chance to build off last week’s success where he added 91 yards on 11 carries, taking advantage of Antwain Littleton’s benching following an unsportsmanlike call. Ramon Brown was back on the practice field working off to the side this week as he’s remained inactive through the first two weeks, but the ground game is where Maryland has the advantage.

Virginia DL Kam Butler and Jahmeer Carter will look to make it 46 and 21 consecutive starts on Friday night, but the Cavs have allowed at least 150 yards in both losses to open the season. Right now, Maryland has the clear edge on the ground game and with the added dynamic that offensive coordinator Josh Gattis sprinkles into the rushing attack, the Terps could look to ride a big day from Hemby into a win. The passing game may get a lot of attention but don’t discount their rushing attack as the path to a Maryland win.

On the other side, Virginia hasn’t shown the ability to consistently run the ball after amassing just 18 yards on 35 carries against James Madison. Virginia’s rushing game has struggled so far this year with their leading rusher, Perris Jones, only having 50 yards through two games. Jones, along with Clemson transfer Kobe Pace and Mike Hollins, lead a Cavs rushing game that has averaged under two yards a carry while scoring four touchdowns, one fewer than Maryland. Out of the three, only Pace has rushed for over 500 yards in a season with 641 back in 2020. With a banged-up Tony Muskett under center, Maryland will have a chance to make Virginia more one-dimensional on offense. Maryland’s defense will hope to make it nine consecutive games without allowing multiple passing touchdowns, extending the nation’s second-longest streak. Which leads us to the Terps’ front seven.

Much has been made of Maryland’s deep linebacker room with inside linebacker coach Lance Thompson leaning on several different rotations and depth through the first two weeks, but this will be the week for the defensive line to generate production as Isaac Bunyun is the lone lineman to generate a sack thus far. Given Virginia also leads the ACC in sacks allowed (8) through two weeks, Friday night gives the unit the perfect chance to generate momentum heading into its first road contest of the season.

Can Maryland’s secondary pass its first test?

Maryland’s defense has allowed just one passing touchdown and 317 total yards through two games, but Friday’s game will mark their first test against a Power Five opponent.

Virginia began the week uncertain who would ultimately start under center before offensive coordinator Des Kitchings confirmed Tony Muskett is set to return under center. Wheatland described Muskett as “very accurate, he has a strong arm” as the two once played against each other in high school.

Malachi Fields and Malik Washington sit top two in both receptions and yards, combining for 21 catches for 285 yards and one touchdown. Outside of them? Ten catches for 198 yards and one touchdown.

That means Ja’Quan Sheppard will get his first chance to showcase himself as a shutdown cornerback, but that won’t be the only storyline. The cornerback room has been without Gavin Gibson through the first two weeks after being sidelined midway through fall camp, while defensive back Avantae Williams has been a healthy scratch through the first two weeks in a coach’s decision. Plus, will veteran safety Beau Brade be available after missing the open portion of practice earlier this week?

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