Saturday's game between Virginia and Maryland will be a clash between schools heading in opposite directions.
Virginia (2-4) is a year removed from an 8-5 season, but the Cavaliers have lost four games in a row and were torched by Duke last weekend, 42-17.
Meanwhile, Maryland (3-2) has already surpassed its win total from a year ago (2), ended its own two-game losing streak against Wake Forest last week and is looking to ride a very good defense into bowl eligibility this season.
Let's take a closer look at this ACC rivalry.
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Saturday, October 13 at 3 p.m. ET
Betting Line: Virginia (-2), according to Bet Online
Maryland Injuries (via USA Today)
DL Keith Bowers, Calf, Questionable
DB Matt Robinson, Groin, Questionable
DB Rashid Conteh, Ankle, Questionable
DB A.J. Hendy, Ankle, Questionable
PK Nick Ferrara, Hip, Out Indefinitely
Virginia Injuries (via USA Today)
DE Bill Schautz, Undisclosed, Questionable
WR Tim Smith, Lower Body, Questionable
T Kelby Johnson, Disciplinary, Questionable
Maryland has lost four of its last five meetings with Virginia. Can the Terrapins reverse that trend, or will the Cavaliers' home-field advantage be too much to overcome?
Top 25 Implications
Nothing to see here, people—these teams won't be ranked anytime soon. It's all about earning bowl eligibility this year.
What They're Saying
For Virginia, holding on to the ball offensively and forcing turnovers defensively has to be a new focus for the team. Turnovers have been killing the squad, according to Hank Kurz Jr. of the Associated Press (via the Greenfield Daily Reporter):
Among Virginia's chief problems is turnovers. They are next-to-last among 124 Bowl Subdivision teams in turnover margin at minus 2 per game, and next-to-last in turnovers caused with just three, and one of those, a fumble recovery by Daquan Romero, came when a punt returner muffed a catch for Georgia Tech.
Meanwhile, Maryland's defense has propelled a major turnaround from 2011's disappointing season, and a key goal-line stand led the team past Wake Forest. From Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post:
But it was only one year ago that Maryland’s defense ranked 108th nationally. Entering Saturday’s game, Maryland was eighth at 261 yards allowed per game; Wake Forest could only muster 241.
Midway through the second quarter, Wake Forest had fourth and goal from a football-length out. The offensive line parted and running back Josh Harris saw daylight. The junior went airborne, bound for the end zone, but was sprung backwards by Dexter McDougle and [Demetrius] Hartsfield, who cracked Harris high and sent him sailing.
Maryland Player to Watch: Stefon Diggs, WR
The Terps aren't a very good running team, and starting quarterback Perry Hills isn't reminding anyone of Geno Smith this year. For the Terps to win, they need two things: a solid defensive effort and big plays on the outside.
Enter Stefon Diggs.
The team's leading receiver with 17 receptions for 364 yards and three touchdowns, Diggs is the biggest downfield stretch the team has. His 21.4 yards per catch makes him the only home-run hitter this team has, and if Maryland is going to beat Virginia, it'll need him to have a big day.
Virginia Player to Watch: Phillip Sims, QB
After getting his first start against Duke last weekend, Virginia has decided it will scrap co-starting Sims alongside Michael Rocco and give Sims the gig to himself for now.
Quick @uva_football depth chart note: The OR is gone at the QB position. Phillip Sims is the No. 1 guy.— Damon Dillman (@DamonDillman) October 8, 2012
Sims didn't exactly light the world on fire in Virginia's disappointing loss to Duke, finishing 21-of-42 with 268 yards, two interceptions and zero touchdowns. Hardly inspiring stuff.
But he's the guy now nonetheless, and he has a tough task against a good Maryland defense. If he doesn't come to play, Virginia will be in serious trouble—and possibly have a quarterback controversy back on its hands next week.
Key Matchup: Virginia Rushing Attack vs. Maryland Front Seven
Virginia has to be able to run the ball in this game. Though the Cavaliers chew up a lot of yards through the air (25th in the nation in passing yards), they've turned the ball over far too often, and the quarterback play has been suspect at best (Rocco and Sims have combined for 12 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions).
The problem is, Maryland is pretty good at stopping the run. The Terps are ranked No. 7 in the nation in both total defense and rushing defense, and they'll look to completely take the run out of the equation and turn Virginia into a one-dimensional offense.
If they succeed, the likelihood that Sims will see pressure in his face all day and will turn the ball over dramatically increases. If Virginia can't run the ball with some success, Maryland will make moving the ball very difficult.
While Virginia is reeling after four consecutive losses, Maryland is fresh off a must-needed win over Wake Forest and is a confident bunch. Look for the Terps' defense to win them the game, 21-10.
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