It's finally here, the match-up that the media has been waiting for: The Edsall Bowl. Maryland vs. UConn. The Big East school coming to show their old coach what he left behind. The ACC program hoping to start 3-0 for the first time since 2001.
There appears to be a lot more fabricated tension and pressure surrounding this game. In reality, it's a contest between two bad teams who happen to have better scouting reports of their opponent than usual. Both coaches will tell you it's just another game, the media will tell you it's the defining game of the season for each team, but truthfully, it's probably somewhere in the middle.
Randy Edsall will be facing off against UConn, the program he essentially built and then left for College Park after 12 years. The Husky faithful were not happy - particularly with how Edsall left: not telling his players face-to-face.
It's easy to forget that the coach-returning-to-old-school storyline actually goes both ways: former Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown is now handling the Huskies' defense, and he's doing a heck of a job. Through two games, they've given up ten points, and the touchdown came on a fantastic catch by NC State's Bryan Underwood.
UConn has the number one rushing defense in the country, giving up just 57 yards total over their first two games - a 37-0 win over UMass and a 10-7 loss to the Wolfpack. They're also ninth in passing defense (260 yards over the two games) and lead the Big East in every defensive category.
The defense is lead by star defensive end Trevardo Williams, who set his total sacks goal for this year at 16 after recording 13 in 2011. At four through two games, he's well on his way. UConn's official website also has him listed as on the 2033 Bednarik Watch List, so it appears they know something about his eligibility that we don't. Sophomore linebacker Yawin Smallwood is also having a fantastic year, with seven tackles for a loss already.
Also on UConn's is former Terrapin linebacker Ryan Donohue, who through two games has two tackles.
Despite that great defense, the Huskies have struggled on offense. They're dead last in the conference in rushing offense, and quarterback Chandler Whitmer has thrown five interceptions in two games.
Whitmer is 30/52 on the year with 423 yards, but he has those five interceptions and zero touchdowns ... and the passing game has been UConn's better half of their offense.
Lyle McCombs has been getting most of the carries, with 43 over two games, but only has 142 yards. Freshman Max DeLorenzo had four carries for 22 yards against UMass but didn't get a touch against NC State, wide receiver Nick Williams only gets involved in the running game occasionally, and Scott McCummings gives the Huskies a Wildcat option at quarterback.
For Maryland, there are a few big returns. Safety Matt Robinson and cornerback Isaac Goins are back from injury - huge news for a secondary that has given up far too many big plays this season. Robinson will slot in as the starting strong safety, moving Sean Davis out of the starting lineup, and Goins will provide depth for a corner unit that desperately needed it.
Kenny Tate, Nick Ferrara and A.J. Hendy are not back yet, and fullback Tyler Cierski will also be missing out. Starting guard De'Onte Arnett is listed as questionable, but Josh Cary is a more than capable replacement.
The bigger news on the offensive side is the rumored return of Brandon Ross, who is listed as probable. Ross was supposed to be Maryland's starting running back at the beginning of the season, but injuries sidelined him for the first two games. The Terps have received mixed performances from the trio of Justus Pickett, Albert Reid, and Wes Brown, so we'll see how much of an impact Ross has on Saturday.
This will be a match-up between two teams led by their defenses, and it's hard to imagine much scoring happening. Maryland might honestly have the better offense (don't expect to hear that again), but the Huskies' defense looks like one of the best in the country - and Don Brown's complicated blitzing scheme could just cause some more turnovers from the Terps' true freshman, who already have eight through two games.
This is one of the last games on the schedule where you get the feeling that Maryland should win it, but it certainly will be close. Williams is insanely talented, and Smallwood leads a very strong group of linebackers. Getting Ross, Robinson and Goins back will be huge for Maryland, but the Terps will need to hold on to the ball if they stand any chance.
Prediction: Maryland 16, Connecticut 10. Two turnovers for Maryland, and the Terps hold on to the win thanks to three field goals from Brad Craddock and a touchdown run from Brandon Ross.