COLLEGE PARK -- On paper, this is the biggest game Ron Vanderlinden has coached since arriving at Maryland nearly three years ago.
The 2-0 Terps not only have a chance to beat a top-quality football team in West Virginia (1-1) today, but they can equal last season's victory total before even stepping onto the field against eight Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
That's no small thing for a rebuilding team that was able to win only five games against very ordinary opponents (Duke twice, Temple twice and James Madison) in Vanderlinden's first two seasons.
But don't expect Vanderlinden to publicly get too excited about the significance of today's matchup at Byrd Stadium, which will be televised by ESPN2.
"West Virginia is a big game, but I would not label it a make-or-break game," said Vanderlinden. "I don't think you can stop them, but hopefully we can outscore them.
"Offensively, we're just feeling our way along in terms of outscoring people. We're going to have to play very well on offense and contain them on defense to make this a competitive game."
Most of the Maryland players are trying their best to publicly contain their enthusiasm for the always emotional clash with the Mountaineers.
Said starting right guard Jamie Wu: "We have eight games left after this. It's just the next game on our schedule."
But Wu conceded the Terps "have something to prove in this one. West Virginia stomped us last year. They completely stomped us [42-20]."
As usual, Wu and the Maryland offensive line will be under pressure to provide the blocking needed by redshirt freshman quarterback Calvin McCall and running back LaMont Jordan to be effective.
"It's going to be a challenge to move the ball against a defense like West Virginia, because they're notorious for great defenses," said Wu. "We [offensive line] got a lot more aggressive last week, stuck our heads in their chests and moved guys off the ball."
McCall and the Maryland offense will have to outscore an innovative West Virginia attack led by preseason All-American quarterback Marc Bulger, who dominated the Terps in two previous games: 38 completions in 53 attempts for 486 yards and five touchdowns.
"Bulger has a quick release and does a great job of looking off defenders," said Vanderlinden. "He throws both short and deep well and they often line up in a four-wide-receiver look.
"Coach [Don] Nehlen has been there 20 years now and his offensive system has been tried, proven and fine-tuned over a long time."
Nehlen said Bulger was slowed by a slightly sprained ankle in last week's 43-27 victory over Miami of Ohio, but the senior leader is 100 percent now.
"I wouldn't trade Marc for any other quarterback," said Nehlen, whose Mountaineers were upset by East Carolina, 30-23, in the season opener.
"He's very solid, gets you in the right play most of the time. He knows where we want to go with the ball and he's accurate."
Next for Maryland
Opponent: West Virginia
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
When: Today, noon , TV: ESPN2