The reeling Maryland Terrapins travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday. It has been a rough stretch for Maryland, who enters with a 3-6 record after losing four straight in Big Ten play. To make matters worse, the Terrapins lost these four games to Purdue, Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan by a combined total of 105 points. Maryland's 2-0 start seems like a distant memory.
And things won't get any easier with the Terps set to face a well-rested Ohio State team coming off of a bye and one that was atop the initial College Football Playoff rankings that were unveiled on Tuesday night. Head coach Ryan Day has been focused on making sure the Buckeyes do not become complacent after their 8-0 start. "It's something we talk about right from the get-go. We want to have something to prove week in and week out, bringing it week to week. Part of being tough is playing tough, but also bringing it every week. We talked about that if the season went the way we wanted it to go, the season would get harder and tougher and tougher. If you win each game, the bullseye gets bigger and bigger. It's the leaders' job and the coaches' job to make sure we do that week to week."
Maryland at Ohio State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -44
When Maryland Has the Ball
In last week's 38-7 loss to Michigan, the Terrapins tried to dictate tempo with a ball-control approach on offense. Maryland was able to move the ball against the Wolverines but could not make their drives count. The Terps were just 4-for-16 on third down and 0-for-3 in the red zone, including an interception and a missed field goal. Head coach Mike Locksley summarized the afternoon this way, "When you do that, shorten the game like we tried to do, we've got to execute, especially in the red area — which we didn't do."
Against Ohio State, Maryland will try and establish its running game. Last season, Anthony McFarland Jr. gashed the Buckeyes for 298 yards on 21 carries (14.2 ypc) in the Terrapins' close 52-51 loss at home. This time, however, he and Javon Leake will be going up against one of the nation's top run defenses. Ohio State is holding opponents to just 91.5 rushing yards per game (ninth in FBS) and a scant 2.5 yards per carry (third).
What Maryland lacks in talent at the quarterback position, Locksley has been trying to make up for with creativity. The Terps have been switching back and forth between starter Josh Jackson and highly-touted freshman Lance LeGendre, as the latter's mobility adds an extra dimension to the offense. Whoever is at quarterback can breathe a little easier knowing that Buckeyes defensive end Chase Young will not be on the field Saturday. On Friday, Ohio State announced that Young, who is leading the nation in sacks with 13.5, will miss the game due to a possible violation of NCAA rules. While the school will look to sort his situation out, the rest of the Buckeyes' defense will have to pick up the slack.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Ohio State is third nationally in scoring at 48.3 points per game and has a wide arsenal of offensive weapons to deploy against Maryland. Quarterback Justin Fields has accounted for 33 touchdowns (24 passing, 9 rushing), and is third in the Big Ten in total offense (247.3 ypg). Junior running back J.K. Dobbins leads the conference and is fourth in FBS with 1,110 rushing yards and has 11 total touchdowns, while the Buckeyes' leading receivers (Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor, K.J. Hill, and Austin Mack) each are averaging more than 10 yards per reception.
In a strange reunion, former Ohio State and current Maryland linebacker Keandre Jones will have a chance to play against his old teammates in Ohio Stadium. Maryland has been giving up 30.0 points per game, and it will be extremely challenging for the Terrapins to slow down the Buckeyes on Saturday afternoon. The one way they could keep things close would be to win the turnover battle, but Ohio State is tops in the Big Ten in differential (+11) due in part to giving the ball away just six times thus far while Maryland is dead even. The Terps have created 12 takeaways, but their quarterbacks also have thrown a total of 10 interceptions (to go along with two fumbles lost).
Maryland fans will look back at the near-upset of the Buckeyes in 2018, and perhaps the Terrapins will be able to recapture some of the magic that they had in the first two games of the season. The more likely outcome is that Ohio State, who got an unexpected jolt after coming in at No. 1 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, will put aside any distractions related to Chase Young's developing situation and come out focused, looking to make a statement. The final score may not be as lopsided as the game itself ends up being as Ryan Day make take advantage of the situation and try and rest his starters as they prepare for showdowns with Penn State and Michigan later this month.