Thursday, October 20, 2005

Virginia Tech - Maryland Preview

Virginia Tech, returning to action following their bye week, travels to College Park tonight to take on a streaky Maryland team currently sitting at 4-2 in the ACC. Though the Hokies have been playing incredibly well this season, I don't see them coming into Byrd Stadium taking this game lightly. Aside from Duke, Tech has not been dominant at all while on the road. In fact, at times, they have looked sloppy, and thus have struggled.

Take the West Virginia game for example. During the opening half, the Hokies almost fell apart as their defense was exposed and exploited by a pumped-up Mountaineer squad backed by thousands of Morganville fans. Fortunately enough they were able to pull it together and step it up in the second half. Let's hope that isn't the case at all tonight as the Hokies look good for all 60 minutes tonight.

With the unfortunate reality of addresing how Virginia Tech has played mediocre football on the road this season, what better time to make up for that than with a blowout win on ESPN's thursday night showcase. Tech needs to overcome their away game sloppiness, so with that concept in mind, hopefully Beamer will bring his boys to play. With Byrd being louder than ever tonight as Terp fans cheer for the win, Tech will have to stay composed and show poise in order to pull out this crucial win.

So with that being said, here are a few things to look for when gametime kicks off...

When Virginia Tech has the ball:
Watch out for Mike Imoh. The 5-7 shifty senior returns from his ankle injury and with Humes sitting out, should get a majority of the carries. Expect to see Imoh carry the work load for the Hokies' running game, with redshirt-freshman Branden Ore coming in occasionally to see action. Against Maryland's suspect run defense, #20 should have a career day.

Pay attention to Jeff King. King has played superbly so far this year, and has been the complete package for VT at tight end. As a receiver, he has 15 catches for 188 yards and is currently tied for second in the ACC with 4 scores. As a blocker King has been pivotal in the success of the run, as Tech currently ranks 2nd in the ACC in rushing yards, averaging 177 yards per game. When the Hokies push the ball to the endzone, look for King to get his hands on the pigskin.

When Maryland has the ball:
They will give it to Vernon Davis. At 6'3, 250 pounds, the junior tight end has the size (and speed) to really do some damage. In Ralph Friedgen's offense, Davis has been the Terps' prime weapon in the passing game, and has the ability to stretch the field. On the season Davis has put up some very impressive numbers, and is undoubtedly one of the best tight ends in the conference. In games against Clemson, West Virginia, and Virginia, Davis scored in all of them, while going off for 140, 158, and 59 receiving yard games respectively. If Maryland is productive offensively tonight, Davis will be the reason for that.

Expect the run. Maryland boasts a strong 1-2 punch on the ground in running backs Lance Ball and Mario Merrills. The duo has combined for 7 scores on the season, and together average a smooth 112 yards per game. Fortunately for Maryland, both backs possess the ability for the long run, and with Davis as the deep threat, the Hokies won't be able to overload the line with 8 or 9 in the box. A possible break out day for the twosome against the ACC's top defense could be likely, as adrenaline will be pumping in the duo as all of Maryland cheers them on.

When Virginia Tech is on defense:
The defensive line will raise hell. Expect turnovers. Defensive ends Darryl Tapp and Chris Ellis have been excellent so far in pash rushing this season, and with Tim Sandridge plugging the middle, the D-line has been essential in causing turnovers left and right. Along with being such dominant pass rushers, the front four have been solid in shutting down the run, as they have only allowed two rushing touchdowns on the entire season.

Along with the line wreaking havoc, the linebacker corps of Adibi, Hall, and Anderson have played incredibly well for the Hokies. The trio are in fact the three leading tacklers on the team and account for 122 of the team's tackles. What also makes them special is their ability to make the big play, as between the three of them, they have 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 3 sacks.

When Maryland is on defense:
Their weakness is against the run. This defensive unit, led by senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, has already given up over 1000 yards to the run in their six games. 1018 to be exact. That's a 170-yard per game average. I'm more than confident, especially with the extra week off, that Beamer and his coaching staff will exploit this weakness in the Terrapin defense. Don't be surprised to see Imoh break out for a 100+ yard game. I won't.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 49, Maryland 13.

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