Neither West Virginia head coach Neal Brown nor Maryland’s Mike Locksley are on the hot seat heading into the 2021 season. But both need to get their teams off to a strong start in their third seasons — if they want to stay off the hot seat.
That means it is time to show some real progress and win games. Either that or start working on their resumes.
With the talent on their rosters, there is potential for both teams this season. If they live up to their potential in Week 1, fans are in for an incredible football game.
Here’s a look at the betting odds for Saturday’s game, which kicks off at 3:30 p.m ET at Maryland Stadium in College Park. ESPN has television coverage.
|BetRivers||WVU -2.5 (-114)|
Maryland +2.5 (-107)
|56.5 (over -109, under -112)||WVU -143/Maryland +117|
|DraftKings||WVU -3 (+100)|
Maryland +3 (-120)
|57 (under -115)||WVU -145/Maryland +125|
|BetMGM||WVU -3 (-110)||57.5||WVU -150/Maryland +125|
|FanDuel||WVU -2.5 (-120)|
Maryland +2.5 (-102)
|56.5||WVU -150/Maryland +122|
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers did something unusual for a Big 12 team last season—they played excellent defense. They easily had the best defensive unit in the conference; in fact, they were among the best in the country (fourth in total yards, first against the pass, 28th against the run, and 20th in scoring).
Limiting passing offenses in the Big 12 to fewer than 200 yards while also being solid against the run is practically unheard of in the conference — but that was the West Virginia defense in 2020.
Replicating last season’s success will be easier said than done.
The defense has six starters coming back. While they lost an excellent nose tackle in Darius Stills, there is a lot of promise and potential remaining on the defensive line.
They lost their leading tackler in linebacker Tony Fields, but the WVU defense still seems to be in good shape at the linebacker position.
Due to some departures via the transfer portal, the Mountaineers’ top-notch secondary is in rebuild mode this year. But the unit still has some talent to work with in guys like Alonzo Addae, Sean Mahone, and Nicktroy Fortune.
While the defense may win the day for the Mountaineers, the offense will do its part, too. Eight starters return, including quarterback Jarret Doege. He is not a spectacular quarterback, but he is accurate, usually makes good decisions, and does not turn the ball over a lot.
He may not win many games for the Mountaineers, but he will not be the reason they lose.
Doege has some decent wide receivers to work with, but the WVU offense puts more emphasis on the run game, and running back Leddie Brown is eyeing another 1000+ yard season.
Maryland was the definition of frustration last season. After laying an egg in their first game against Northwestern, they played two fantastic games (Minnesota and Penn State). But then they played only two of the six remaining games on their schedule — and lost both in dreadful fashion.
The offense, while talented, was incredibly inconsistent, starting with the play of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. He was brilliant against Penn State and Minnesota but horrendous against Northwestern and Indiana.
This season, Tagovailoa again has some solid wide receivers to work with and an offensive line that should be up to the task despite losing two starters from last season’s group. Running back Tayon Fleet-Davis has the talent to give the Terrapins an effective ground game.
New offensive coordinator Dan Enos should help Tagovailoa and the offense get over some of their consistency issues. However, it will not matter how much better the offense is if the defense does not improve.
Last season’s defense was as inconsistent as the offense. They were terrible against the run but were excellent at rushing the passer and stingy when it came to yards and points in the passing game. With a lot of experience coming back, the pass defense figures to be as good as last season.
But it remains to be seen if they will be any better against the run. The Terrapins defense has some speedy, young talent at linebacker, but the defensive line will have to step up its game if they are going to slow anyone down.
Sports Betting Recommendation
Betting on this game will depend on whose coaching staff you believe in more. Do you think the West Virginia defense will be able to reload and dominate once again? Will Dan Enos have the Maryland offense playing consistent ball this year? If he does, will the defense step its game up and slow the Mountaineers down?
We do not see this game being close. Either the Maryland passing game will click and the Terrapins will roll, or the West Virginia defense will shut Tagovailoa down while the offense runs wild on the Terrapins defense.
It is hard to say with confidence that West Virginia will reload on defense or if Maryland will get its act together on offense and against the run. Maryland’s offense could be explosive, but it could just as easily implode. If the Terrapins cannot stop the run, it may not matter how well their offense plays.
Picking a winner here is tough. But if you saw one of Tagovailoa’s good games last season, then it is easy to justify betting on the Terrapins.
We’re also looking at the ‘under’. If you’re on board, BetMGM is at the high end of the market at 57.5.
Maryland Futures Betting Recommendations
If the Terrapins were to win the national title, Big Ten, or their division, the payoff would be enormous for a relatively small investment. At FanDuel, for example, the Terps are 500/1 to win the national championship, 490/1 to win the Big Ten, and 50/1 for the East Division. If you’re interested in any of these futures, shop around for the best odds, as you always should.
But is there a realistic shot at any of these outcomes?
The answer to that is easy — no. Most of Maryland’s futures are not worth betting on, but there is one, their win total.
When you take the ‘under’, you want the larger number; for the ‘over’, the smaller number. FanDuel has Maryland’s win total set at 5.5 with odds on the ‘under’ set at +125.
DraftKings has the win total set at 5.5 (over -135). BetRivers has Maryland’s win total set at 6 (over +115). You need to risk $135 to win $100 on an ‘over .5.5’ bet with DraftKings, or you could risk $100 to win $115 on ‘over 6’ BetRivers.
So, how many games will Maryland win?
It is tough to see them beating Ohio State, Indiana, or Iowa. They should be able to handle Howard, Kent State, Michigan State, and Rutgers. That leaves Michigan, Penn State, Minnesota, West Virginia, and Illinois. Of those five, they should be able to handle Illinois, but the other four are big maybes.
If you like the ‘under’, you have a choice of taking the plus-money at 5.5 at FanDuel (+125), or laying -143 juice at ‘under 6’ at BetRivers. ‘Over’ bettors face the opposite choice: take plus money at a higher number or lay extra vig on a smaller number.