Tomorrow night's contest at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland will be the first game in many different ways for the Terps.
It will of course be the first game of the 2011 season. It will be coach Randy Edsall's first game of hopefully a long tenure at the helm of the Maryland football squad. It will be the first game Maryland has played since losing its star receiving and running tandem of Torrey Smith and Da'Rel Scott to the NFL Draft in April.
The Terps will try to put all of these firsts aside tomorrow night on ESPN as they take on a talented but extremely depleted Miami Hurricanes team.
As the whole country knows, many of Miami's best players will be at least suspended for the game against Maryland and maybe even more games after that. This is of course due to the team's involvement with convicted Ponzi-scheme operator and Miami booster, Nevin Shapiro.
Shapiro provided multiple Miami players with improper benefits from the conventional like cars and money, to the bizarre with prostitutes and even an abortion.
Putting this crazy story behind and focusing on the game at hand, this one is basically a must-win for the Terps. Miami is missing starters all over the field due to the NCAA-mandated suspensions so Maryland has the edge talent and depth-wise in this game.
Normally if Miami's new head coach Al Golden wasn't so handicapped from a talent standpoint, Miami would probably be favored in this game.
Now with all of Miami's suspensions, the Terps are probably favored and there would be nothing better for a new head coach to start his Maryland tenure with than a win over a conference rival and perennial national power.
Here's a look at two of the most important position battles for Monday's game:
Maryland-Danny O'Brien (sophomore) Miami (FL)-Stephen Morris (sophomore)
Morris came into his own last year after replacing Harris with five games left in the season and was more consistent than prior starter Jacory Harris. Given that, Morris isn't much to marvel at from the QB position and he is very inexperienced.
O'Brien was the QB starter for 11 of the 13 games last year and was very impressive, throwing 22 touchdowns opposed to only eight interceptions.
Advantage - Maryland
Maryland-Davin Meggett (senior) Miami (FL)-Lamar Miller (sophomore)
Both of these teams lost franchise running backs to the NFL this season with Maryland losing star Da'Rel Scott as Miami lost Damien Berry. Miller is the better all-around back as he is a solid pass-catcher and is a stronger more in-between-the tackles runner as opposed to Meggett.
Meggett is a speedster who gains most of his yards on runs when he is able to turn the corner with a head of steam and has the ability to win foot races down the field against slower defensive backs.
Advantage - Miami (FL)
No real conclusions can be made from that as the teams are very well matched up before the suspended and injured players are factored in. Here's a complete list of the Hurricanes that will miss Monday's game either due to the aforementioned suspensions or due to injury:
Jacory Harris, QB- Last year's opening day starter but was extremely inconsistent last season and looks to be replaced this year by Morris..
Seantrel Henderson, LT- Prized recruit from Minnesota who can't stay on the field due to injury problems.
Travis Benjamin, WR- Star receiver who the Canes will sorely miss. Next big-name NFL receiver to come out of Miami's program.
Blake Ayles, TE- USC transfer who was projected to be starter this year.
Dyron Dye, TE- Already far down on the depth chart, little impact on game.
Corey White, TE- Even further down on the depth chart.
Olivier Vernon and Adewale Ojomo, DEs- Both of these players are huge losses for Miami as they combined for 11 sacks last year and provided most of the pressure the Canes unleashed on opposing QBs. Without them, expect Danny O'Brien to have a ton of time in the pocket to look over the depleted secondary for an open receiver.
Marcus Forston, Curtis Porter and Luther Robinson, DTs- Forston is the only real loss of this group as he was the top-rated DT coming out of high school his senior year. The loss of him will definitely open up some running lanes for Davin Meggett. The loss of Porter and Robinson only hurts Miami's depth at that position if nothing more.
Sean Spence and Kelvin Cain, LBs- Spence and Cain are two really athletic and smart linebackers who will be a huge loss for Miami on Monday night. The Canes don't have a lot of depth at that position to begin with and losing these two guys hurts the defense twofold. The middle of the field will be open for O'Brien to exploit with short passes and handoffs.
Shayon Green, LB- His absence just hurts the depth at linebacker.
Ray-Ray Armstrong, S- Another extremely anticipated recruit, Armstrong is a safety in the Ed Reed mold. Big, athletic, and has a knack for making big plays in the defensive backfield, all qualities that coach Al Golden will miss terribly.
Keion Payne, CB- Non-impactful reserve corner.
Maryland should win this game handedly. My prediction is 24-10 in the Terps' favor. In a game in which many of Miami's defensive playmakers aren't hurt or suspended, maybe the score is closer or the Canes win. But in this situation, Miami is just too thin and they don't have the starting talent to compete with a solid, fundamentally sound Maryland team like they have this year.
Info from testudotimes.com