The 2021 college football season is officially underway. While last week saw a few games get the action started, there is a full slate of college games this weekend.
Of course, the most important contest for those in the Mountain State is the opener for WVU.
The Mountaineers travel to Maryland for their first game of the season. This one is shaping up to be a competitive matchup and one both sides believe they can take.
WVU is making strides under head coach Neal Brown and that is likely to continue into this campaign. The team won six total games a year ago, including a bowl victory over Army.
Expectations are even higher this year, as the Mountaineers should compete with the majority of the Big 12.
This first tilt is an important one, especially if you’re a backer of the team at West Virginia sportsbooks. WVU’s season win total of 6.5 could hinge on the results from College Park.
Let’s preview the Mountaineers’ Week 1 battle with Maryland and what the betting odds look like at WV online sportsbooks.
WVU Football Vs. Maryland Preview
The first game every season is always an interesting one. Often, teams open with an easier school so that they can earn a painless win and solidify their footing within the new year.
The Mountaineers began last season at home against Eastern Kentucky.
They won’t have that luxury this time around, as Maryland is a very real opponent which can make some noise.
WVU’s “cupcake” opponent comes during the second week, when it takes on Long Island University.
While Maryland isn’t a powerhouse by any means, it does feature plenty of quality players. The program plays in the Big Ten Conference, which is also considered one of the better ones in football.
It’s difficult to tell how good the Terps are from last season because they only played a few times. They had multiple games canceled and finished the year with a 2-3 record.
Their lack of play might actually work as an advantage early in this new season. Those like WVU don’t have a whole lot of film to review in order to prepare for this weekend.
According to the Associated Press, coach Brown said, “We’re trying to use our best guesses on what we’re going to see.”
It also doesn’t help that Maryland has lots of new coaching additions, including both coordinators.
The good news for WVU and coach Brown is that his side’s defense should again be a strength of this group. This unit was atop the Big 12 in both scoring and yards a year ago.
Several players left for the NFL, however, many key contributors still remain. Players like Akheem Mesidor, Alonzo Addae, and Dante Stills are crucial in limiting opposing offenses this year.
The WVU defense’s main goal this week is to slow down a familiar name at quarterback. Although he’s not nearly as accomplished as his brother, Taulia Tagovailoa creates a lot of issues for oppositions.
His brother, Tua, helped win a National Championship for Alabama and now plays for the Miami Dolphins.
Taulia showed flashes of his potential in 2020 en route to throwing for more than 1,000 yards on around 62% passing.
Although he’s not exactly a running QB, he can certainly move around well. Tagovailoa rushed 26 times through the five games and had a long run of 39 yards.
It is key for the WVU defense to limit big plays down the field.
Tagovailoa’s favorite target last season was Dontay Demus Jr. He’s a senior this fall and looking to take his game to the next level.
Demus Jr. recorded 24 receptions for 365 yards and four touchdowns in the shortened schedule.
Luckily for WVU, it showcases a lot of quality offensive players, too.
Jarret Doege is back under center and is trying to improve on things. He was solid for the most part a year ago, accumulating almost 2,600 passing yards on about 64% efficiency.
Doege certainly enjoys distributing the ball to his talented group of wideouts, but he doesn’t mind handing it off, either.
Senior running back Leddie Brown is poised for a monster year after averaging more than five yards per carry. The WVU offense will likely go through the back and hopefully his success can open up the passing attack.
In tight matchups like these, the winner is determined by the slightest of margins. Typically, the side that wins the turnover differential has a massive advantage.
The Mountaineers were +2 in turnovers last season, compared to Maryland at -7.
WVU Football Odds At WV Sportsbooks
WVU is favored, laying -3 in the point spread at most of the WV sportsbooks. It’s encouraging that WVU is the favorite, but it’s clear the books don’t see much between these two programs.
The Mountaineers are available on the moneyline at DraftKings WV at -150. Maryland is listed at +130 through the online sportsbook.
The game’s total is a bit higher than some might expect and currently sits at 57 points.
Bettors can put action down on a wide variety of markets for this tilt.
A popular prop is each team’s individual total. DraftKings shows WVU’s total at 30.5 points, while Maryland is at 26.5.
Mountain State bettors can wager on the squad from Morgantown to score at least 31 points at +105, whereas the under for the team total has odds of -135.
The state’s sportsbooks offer plenty more, like the Mountaineers to score first at -125.