The 2021 college football season kicks off in earnest this week with a full slate of matchups. Among them, a regional showdown between the Maryland Terrapins and West Virginia Mountaineers.
Online sportsbooks opened West Virginia as 4.5-point favorites with a total of 54.5.
Most shops have adjusted the spread to the key number of 3. Meanwhile, the total increased to as high as 57.5 (William Hill).
West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers finished 6-4 in 2020, capping the season with a 24-21 victory over Army in the Autozone Liberty Bowl.
Head coach Neal Brown heads into his third season at the helm with a .500 record (11-11) under his belt. The Mountaineers don’t head into the season saddled by sky-high expectations. However, another winning season and bowl appearance should be in the cards.
Senior quarterback Jarret Doege has dedicated his offseason to improving in a number of areas. He’s not spectacular but Doege and his coaching staff believe his offseason growth will boost the offensive output.
Running back Leddie Brown, who’s fresh off rushing for 1,010 yards and nine scores, will join him in the backfield.
The Mountaineers ranked 21st in scoring defense (20.5 points per game) and fourth in total defense (291.4 yards per game). Another strong showing from this unit will take pressure off of the offense.
Their defense will need to replace defensive tackle Darius Stills, safety Tykee Smith, and cornerback Dreshun Miller. Senior safety Alonzo Addae (66 tackles, two interceptions) returns as a key member of last year’s stingy unit.
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the Terrapins in 2020. They finished 2-3 and endured three cancellations.
There’s talent on the roster and the hope is that new coaching staff additions — Dan Enos, in particular, the team’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach — can tap into it. Enos expressed optimism with the offense, a unit that returns a lot of production from last season. “I’m excited because all the position groups, I look and I see talented guys that are good players. Guys that have a chance to be good.”
Taulia Tagovailoa, the younger brother of the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa, will be taking the snaps at quarterback, and by all accounts is ready to take a significant step forward after throwing for 1,011 yards and a 7-to-7 TD/INT ratio.
Should he demonstrate the growth anticipated, there are some dangerous pass-catchers for him to target. Senior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. totaled 24 receptions for 365 yards and four touchdowns, and senior tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo is a tough matchup that could emerge as a reliable weapon.
Defensively, the Terrapins return 10 starters (linebacker Chance Campbell transferred to Ole Miss), but the fate of the team overall will be finding more consistency throughout games and from week-to-week.
Those inclined to wager on the Terrapins lost some value when the line moved from 4.5 down to 3 at most shops. With the spread landing on the key number, it may be worth keeping the wallet in the back pocket here. If you like their chances of coming away with the win outright though, they can be found at +130 on several books, including DraftKings.
West Virginia fans, meanwhile, will want to place their bets at FanDuel, where the Mountaineers are favored by 2.5. If the moneyline is your flavor of choice, the best number can be found at Circa Sports where they’re priced at -140.