BALTIMORE, Md. — We’re to believe there is pride reborn in the Maryland program—and not just in the latest batch of comic-book uniforms—because a 3-0 start against the murderers’ row of Florida International, Old Dominion and UConn signals a turnaround?

Actually, anything short of a sweep against that FIU, ODU and Geno Auriemma U. would’ve signaled catastrophe, so when Randy Edsall sticks with the standard coachspeak about Saturday’s game being no more important than the previous three, he’s saying what the mic expects to hear and not what the rational mind comprehends.

Lose to WVU in a game meant to remind the Baltimore area that Maryland still dresses out a football team, lose to WVU for the eighth straight time, and the Terps are right back in deep muck. Beating West Virginia is Maryland’s first crack at legitimacy this season.

Conversely, West Virginia has pinned a couple cupcakes itself, though that trip to Norman, Okla., certainly qualifies as a legitimate opponent. We’re still unsure whether the Mountaineers can challenge for the Big 12 title or even reach a bowl game, though the first three games provided a few lessons:

1. Dana Holgorsen is not infallible when it comes to picking preseason quarterbacks.
2. A defense can be vastly improved yet still susceptible to backbreaking plays.
3. The Oklahoma loss encapsulated the best and worst WVU has to offer.

Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Ford Childress threw for a West Virginia freshman-record 359 yards Saturday.

Footnotes on the lessons:

1. Holgorsen has rescinded his original quarterback choice by replacing Paul Millard with Ford Childress in a move that should last until 2015 if not longer. Short of a multiple-interception meltdown or a zero blitzer-induced injury, Saturday’s game will be Childress’ wire-to-wire.

2. The three long completions by William & Mary, those occasional gashes at Oklahoma and a 65-yard sucker-punch by Georgia State have tempered Keith Patterson’s review of his defense so far. Much improved group athletically and schematically, but still capable of turning a 15-yard play into a breakaway. With Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown extending plays and the Diggs & Long duo capable of shaking free in the secondary, defensive discipline will be tested.

The presumed return of Isaiah Bruce at Spur linebacker would be pivotal for WVU. You’ll recall Bruce missed the second half at Oklahoma, after which Holgorsen said “he was playing terrible and looked slow.” That quote left Patterson shaking his head in quizzical disbelief this week. (Hey, maybe Holgorsen was confused from the heat.)

“(Bruce) played pretty dang good from what I could tell,” Patterson said. “If he had been in the game that might have been a different outcome. Once he went out of the game, we gave up about 150 yards of runs.”

With Bruce back in the lineup and manning an outside linebacker spot, WVU should be better aligned and stingier against a Terps rushing attack that averages 229 yards.

3. The Sooners are a deeper, more confident team than Maryland, and WVU came within a few dropped/misfired passes from possibly winning that game. It was maddening for Holgorsen and Co. because the upset was there for the taking; yet on the flip side Oklahoma felt like it left 20 points on the field as well.

Childress doesn’t have Millard’s experience, but that loss showed he may have an edge in poise nonetheless. With the Terps gambling more on blitzes, and forced to start their No. 3 and No. 4 cornerbacks because of injuries, expect WVU to eek out an eighth consecutive win.

Pick: West Virginia 21-20

Ranking the other Big 12 games:

1. Texas 27, Kansas State 20: (Longhorns -5.5) Mack Brown has been telling his team “we aren’t as far away as it looks,” but that line only works for side-view mirrors. Texas has lost five straight in the series and this week will be No. 6 if UT doesn’t figure out how to slow the read-option—something it couldn’t do against BYU or Ole Miss. “Kansas State will run the option,” said Brown, who told his defense: “If they didn’t run it, they will put it in.”

2. Baylor 44, Louisiana-Monroe 21: (Bears -29) Producing 69.5 points per game, Baylor has been carving up one of the weakest nonconference schedules in America. The first-team offense has scored 14 touchdowns in 17 possessions, which is farcical, but it’s second-team quarterback Seth Russell who leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency.

3. No. 25 Texas Tech 49, Texas State 17: (Red Raiders -27) The only flaw in Kliff Kingsbury’s 3-0 start is Tech’s minus-3 turnover ratio, worst in the Big 12. More continued carelessness could give a glimmer of hope to the Bobcats, who are plus-6 in the category during a 2-0 start.

4. Kansas 23, Louisiana Tech 14: (Jayhawks -9) The downwardly mobile Skip Holtz hauls his Bulldogs (1-2) into Lawrence, sporting an offense nowhere near as dynamic as last season’s 51 points-per-game average. That should perfectly complement KU’s sputtering attack, which will feature three new receivers after the group let down Jake Heaps against Rice.

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  • lee arthur

    What happened to the slim victory ?

  • Magic Mike

    14 nil right now MD.

  • Outdoor Man

    Hey HF,hope you choke on your turtle soup today!

    • Harpers Ferry

      Unlike you and Allan Taylor, I'm a WVU fan that lives in REALITY!!!!

  • Harpers Ferry

    Putting Childress at QB will go down as the greatest decision in WVU history, as he leads our Mounties to consecutive National Championships! I'll take Ford Childress over Johnny Manziel ANYDAY! Jeff Casteel? Who is that? He can't hold a candle to our current DC. Look what WVU did to Oklahoma in Norman, and THAT was Oklahoma's best played game in their history. Yep, not only will WVU dominate in Baltimore today against the Terps, but if the Ravens took the field we would beat them by at least 5 TD's!

    One thing is for sure, this Kool-Aid tastes delicious!

  • Taylor

    WVU always does well v. Maryland

    • Harpers Ferry

      Always? That's a pretty strong word. I seem to remember going into Mountaineer Field as a student and Scott McBrien and the Terps hung 35 on WVU by the end of the 1st Quarter

  • Brent

    Once again a nice piece of journalism that no doubt has certain of our state's so called sports writers scratching their heads. The penning of a column that is not a rehash of Internet message boards is a never found art for some of our scribes.

  • clair thompson

    This game will dictate what happens the rest of the season, win and they could win seven lose and and well you know the rest.

  • Maxxajay

    Allan I agree with that the Mountaineers will win, but more than one point ... A defensive struggle but the Mountaineers will pull it out.... A win is a win....

  • jwg66

    I believe the Casteel bend but don't break D would have bent then broke in the Big 12. Our opponents are good enough to score more than our old Big East foes once they get into scoring range. I also think we need to continue to work to upgrade at DL & CB. Casteel had essentially given up on this with his focus on Safeties and Linebackers. In any event, it seems we are headed the right way. Tommorrow should tell us alot. Maryland has the best balance on offense of all our previous games & Diggs is a handfull. If we can pull this out, my hopes for later games go up. Go Mountaineers!

    • wvrefugee

      My friend, you wouldn't know a football from a beach ball!

  • WV Redneck

    WV by 10 pulling away mid 3rd. Quarter.

  • Mister Man

    "He gets paid the big bucks" should have been deleted from my post. I didn't backspace far enough.

  • Mister Man

    Perhaps Holgs had some issues with DCs in the past. Even so, as a head coach, he should defer to his coaches. Let them do what they are paid to do. He gets paid the big bucks. I hope ego doesn't have an influence on the outcome of a game.

  • Mister Man

    Very nice, Allan.

  • tw eagle

    Childress should be much improved from last week . . .WVU's defense hasn't faced a team yet that can run and throw effectively, YET. . .

    will the defensive adjustments made at the half in game one remain ingrained in the
    WVU D ? will Patterson give the boundary
    LB responsibility for overall contain on the
    turtle qb ? or will Patterson screw down one
    of his safeties with that responsibility ? either scenario can be well exploited by a
    good OC and a qb who has recievers who
    can "find" openings . . .your prog is probably
    right on , a chess game of act and react . . .
    least amount of errors carries the day . . .

    • tw eagle

      wow , just checked the weather . . .hot , muggy, and windy . . .80% chance of T-storm
      average wind velo 16 , wind blowing toward the visitor (WVU) bench . . .is the field real
      grass or store bought ? bring the LONG cleats if its real grass . . .

  • Bobby M

    SO! Patterson and Holgs having disagreements IN the MEDIA??! I'd say thats an awfuly interesting observations!! I have to admit it makes me wonder TO this day why Casteel HATED Holgs SO darn much!!?!!! What skeletons are THAT closet?!

    No matter what - lets spot it UP! Let it RIP! And Rock N ROLL Rumble to victory boys!!!!! I'm soooo psyched out!!!

    • Larry

      I AGREE, lets GO mountaineers, win THIS game! give it YOUR all, hold the ROPE!! spot THE ball, get IT on, rock AND roll!

    • rekterx

      SO! Patterson and Holgs have had a different take on ONE issue and we have a fan who reads into this a rift going all the back to Jeff Casteel!
      I have to admit this ONLY confirms my suspicion that many fans NEED a soap opera and will FIND one! What other mini-dramas will we NEXT create!?!?!?!

      • Bobby M

        EXACTLY! People cant understand that WHAT we see in the MEDIA is just the TIP of the iceburg!

        It will be interesting To SEE how THIS soap DRAMA unfolds AS the season unfolds!!!!

        • mtnmanstan

          OK scored 13 in the first half with Bruce on the field and 3 in the second half. Holgs may have a valid point on this one.