COLLEGE PARK — Maryland puts together a preliminary scouting report of each opponent during the summer, scanning through film from last season to get an early feel for what a team is going to look like.
The film of West Virginia showed a mediocre football team that finished 4-8 and had issues on both offense and defense.
A year later, the Mountaineers are much better, as Terps coach Randy Edsall and his staff saw when they began extensively scouting this year's West Virginia tape Sunday.
West Virginia narrowly lost to then-No. 2 Alabama in Week 1, beat FCS power Towson 54-0 in Week 2 and will be Maryland's biggest test to date when the two teams play today in College Park.
Terps coaches and players believe Maryland has the talent to be competitive in the Big Ten. This non-conference game should provide a good indication.
"Absolutely," Terps quarterback C.J. Brown said. "We understand that, that this is one of the best teams we've played thus far. … We understand this is going to be a tough, hard-fought battle, and we're looking forward to the challenge."
The Terps beat West Virginia 37-0 in Baltimore last season, their most lopsided win over the Mountaineers since 1951 and a rare win amid a rivalry that West Virginia has mostly dominated since 2004.
But this is a different Mountaineers squad.
"They're a much better team than they were a year ago when we played them," Edsall said.
Last year, the Mountaineers had three different starting quarterbacks. This year, senior Clint Trickett has taken hold of the position and has West Virginia's offense looking as good and explosive as it has since quarterback Geno Smith and wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey last stepped on the field for the Mountaineers in 2012.
Trickett, who started his college career at Florida State, was 29 of 45 for 365 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions against Alabama. He followed that by completing 35 of his 40 passes for 348 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in less than four quarters of work vs. Towson.
"He's making all the checks, a lot like you saw when Geno was the quarterback, getting the ball out on the perimeter as fast as he can," Maryland outside linebacker Matt Robinson said.
Trickett will be facing a Terps pass defense that had some problems during Maryland's win over South Florida last week.
The Bulls were without their top wide receiver, Andre Davis, and they were forced to turn to their backup quarterback, Steven Bench, after just one play.
However, Bench completed six passes that went for gains of 15 yards or more. His final numbers (14 of 36 for 162 yards with an interception) would have been much better if not for several drops.
"We're just trying to get pressure on [Trickett] and disrupt some of their timing because a lot of their offense is timing," Robinson said, "so we're just trying to disrupt them and hopefully throw them off a little bit."
The Terps will also be challenged on offense, though.
Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown has the ability to make plays as a runner and ran for 61 yards and three touchdowns vs. James Madison in Week 1. However, he has was just 11 of 24 for 111 yards against James Madison, and he threw two interceptions vs. South Florida.
Brown is a sixth-year senior who says he has a great understanding of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley's offense. But Edsall said he feels like Brown has been overthinking during the Terps' first two games. So Edsall briefly met with Brown earlier this week and told him simply to relax, have fun and stop overanalyzing.
Brown said he plans to do that. But he will have to overcome a physical and aggressive West Virginia defense that is allowing an average of just 165 passing yards through two games.
Towson quarterbacks were just 8 of 24 for only 80 yards against West Virginia last week.
The Terps are 2-0, and they are favored by three points, according to ESPN.com. But Maryland trailed lowly South Florida entering the fourth quarter last week and had six turnovers during that game.
"We've got to go out there and play a lot better than we have in the past," Brown said. "It's going to be a good game, a good test for us."
Reach staff writer Matt Zenitz at 410-857-7896 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEST VIRGINIA (1-1) @ MARYLAND (2-0)
When: Today, noon
Site: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/105.7 FM
Series: West Virginia 26-22-2
What's at stake: This is Maryland's biggest test to date, and the Terps have an opportunity to show they are truly a good enough team to make some noise in the Big Ten this season. This is also a chance to move to 3-0 in advance of a seemingly winnable game against Syracuse next week before opening Big Ten play a week later.
Key matchup: Maryland will have to slow down quarterback Clint Trickett and the Mountaineers' passing game. Trickett has thrown for 713 yards while completing 75 percent of his passes in West Virginia's first two games. The Terps' pass defense, meanwhile, is somewhat of a question mark and struggled some during Maryland's win over South Florida last week.
Players to watch: Junior wide receiver Kevin White is Trickett's top weapon in the passing game. He was a starter last year and has 19 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. Junior safety Karl Joseph is probably the Mountaineers' top player on defense. Joseph was West Virginia's Defensive MVP as a freshman in 2012 and leads the Mountaineers with 20 tackles.
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— Matt Zenitz