1. Special Teams. The offense and defense have started to put together more consistent performances. Special teams? Not so much. Virginia's play in kickoff coverage already influenced an outcome at Southern Miss. Don't let Maryland's special teams spark a big night in College Park.
2. Get Simpson's Production. Mikell Simpson, who left last week's game on a stretcher with a neck injury, is listed as "doubtful" on UVa's injury report, meaning there's at least a 75% chance he will not play. Simpson has been a big part of the Hoos' back-to-back wins with his running production and receiving ability. Heck, he scored 4 TDs last week! Virginia needs to get his production from someone or a group of someones.
3. Take-Aways. Virginia produced a late INT at UNC and that helped seal the win with a touchdown on the following drive. Last week, UVa forced a fumble and used a big return to set up the offense's first touchdown. Plus, Terp QB Chris Turner tossed 5 combined interceptions in his team's losses this season. Take-aways could play a big role in a match-up that's been really close twice in recent seasons.
4. Don't Get Tricked. Maryland's offense is inconsistent and its defense hasn't stopped anyone really. How can you help both at one time? With a trick play to ignite your team and your home stadium. Fake punt, reverse pass, flea flicker? Be prepared for anything this week, particularly early in an effort to fire everyone up in Terp-town.
KRIS ON THE TERPS
UVa has won 13 of 17 match-ups with Maryland, but the two teams have split the last eight meetings with the Cavaliers winning the last two. The scores in the eight games of the Al Groh era: 41-21 Maryland, 48-13 UVa, 27-17 Maryland, 16-0 UVa, 45-33 Maryland, 28-26 Maryland, 18-17 UVa, and 31-0 UVa.
In three of those Terrapin wins (2001, 2003, 2005), Ralph Friedgen's bunch has posted more than 200 yards rushing and those were all double-digit Maryland victories. In other words, that's where this all starts for the two teams. Whoever runs the ball the best in this series typically wins. The Hoos are 22-8 against the Terps since 1937 when they rush for at least 150 yards. When the Hoos rush for fewer than 100 yards against the Terrapins, though, they lose - Virginia's lost 15 straight games to Maryland when falling short on that stat.
With Mikell Simpson likely out for this one, that fact could be a little scary. After all, Simpson has been the go-to guy on the ground during this two-game winning streak. Don't fret Hoo fans. Rashawn Jackson has looked solid running the ball in recent weeks and Jameel Sewell is a threat as well. Plus, Virginia has been showing "jet motion" looks with Vic Hall out of the slot in recent weeks, meaning the addition of that running play to the playbook is probably in the works.
In the end, I think Virginia runs the ball well in this one and wins because Maryland's defense hasn't stopped anyone yet.
UVa 31, Maryland 17 - Kris Wright, Sabre Editor
PAUL ON THE TERPS
Virginia is on the upswing, while Maryland is banged up and in shambles. The last two years, the Cavaliers have had the Terps' number. It's October, the month where Virginia has won 11 of its last 12. This has to be a Virginia win, right? Just one thing keeps me from making that prediction right off the bat: an interesting quote from Ralph Friedgen. "We have to try to think outside the box because it is not like we are going to change a whole lot of people," he told reporters this week. "We are going to evaluate everything."
Al Groh has said that, particularly defensively, Virginia has been able to be successful of late because of diligent preparation. But it sounds to me like Maryland will look different than it looks on tape this week - perhaps very different. As the saying goes, the Terps are going to pull out all the stops. What's more, though the Maryland defense has been lousy as well, it has been able to sack the quarterback 15 times this season, the second-most in the ACC. Though Virginia's O-Line has been better the last two games, I'm still not convinced that it can consistently protect Jameel Sewell. Plus, should Mikell Simpson not play Saturday, the running game likely suffers.
There is one part of Friedgen's quote, though, that keeps me on the side of a Virginia win: "It's not like we are going to change a whole lot of people." Injuries have killed the Terps, and creative schemes can only go so far with limited personnel. Maryland puts up a fight - and maybe even gets an early lead with a few big plays - but the Cavaliers adjust in the second half and get some key third-down stops in their own territory to pull out their third win in a row.
UVa 24, Maryland 20 - Paul Montana, Sabre Intern