Ohio State heads into their first Big Ten matchup of the season coming off their impressive victory over in-state opponent Cincinnati last week as the Buckeyes cruised in the second half en route to a 50-28 win to improve to a 3-1 on the season. With the offense looking light years ahead of where they were against Virginia Tech, there's confidence that the Buckeyes will be prepared for the Big Ten schedule, starting with Maryland.
The Terps are having a solid season, with a 4-1 record heading into Saturday afternoon. Maryland's only blemish so far was a narrow loss to West Virginia in their third game of the season, in which they fell 40-37. Last week, the Terps thumped Indiana 37-15 and are looking to pull off the upset on their own home turf.
We give you five things to look for on Saturday afternoon, when the Buckeyes make the trip to College Park for their Big Ten opener:
Can't be touched, can't be stopped
Look, putting Stefon Diggs and the Ohio State secondary together on the same field is just like pouring gasoline on an already gigantic fire. Diggs has already accounted for just under 400 yards and has two touchdowns to his name and I can't help but feel as if the Maryland star might embarrass an Ohio State secondary that is still learning and trying to improve since last season.
In fact, I get the strangest feeling that what we're about to see on Saturday is something we have already seen before. He's one of the biggest threats for the Terps, without question. How much the Buckeyes can contain him will play a part in how Saturday's contest ends up.
Back-to-back big games for Elliott?
Ezekiel Elliott finally exploded for Ohio State this season last week against Cincinnati, when Elliott carried the ball 28 times for 182 yards and a touchdown for a career-high performance. With Curtis Samuel hobbled for much of the game on a bit of a bum ankle, Elliott took full advantage of the extra snaps to prove that he is who the staff thought he was.
While no one is asking Elliott to be Carlos Hyde, another solid outing against a Big Ten opponent in Maryland could help solidify his role in the offense and help establish the running game to draw in more defenders, thus making life easier for J.T. Barrett to throw it up to his receivers. I'm looking for another solid performance from Elliott tomorrow afternoon.
Michael Thomas breaks out
With his uncle, Keyshawn Johnson, and his cousin Keyshawn Johnson Jr. (an Ohio State target in the '17 recruiting class) on hand to watch this game (the youngest Johnson is taking a visit to Maryland for the game to see the Buckeyes) expect a concentrated effort from Michael Thomas to get into the endzone to show off his talent. Thomas has been a shining star at wide receiver for the Buckeyes, tied for the most touchdown receptions so far this season with four.
In addition, Thomas was listed as the starting wide receiver over senior Devin Smith earlier this week on the depth chart. After a particularly quiet game against Cincinnati in which he only caught two passes, Thomas will likely have his share of the workload this week against the Terps with his family looking on.
J.T. Barrett continues to build confidence
The past two games Ohio State has played, J.T. Barrett has thrown for over 300 yards in each contest. With over 600 yards passing combined, Barrett's passing numbers have rocketed up 1,087 yards on a respectable 64% pass completion rate. Barrett has also thrown for 13 touchdowns this season and his confidence is clearly beginning to build, which is exactly what the Buckeyes need from the redshirt freshman.
As Barrett has grown into a comfortable position within the plays set up by coach Meyer and coach Herman, the offense has looked much more explosive. I expect for Barrett to continue this latest stretch of play and help lead Ohio State to a victory over their first Big Ten opponent of the season.
Further preparations for Big Ten play
It might surprise some, but looking at Ohio State's Big Ten slate for the rest of the season, it's easy to say the Buckeyes have it easier than some. With No. 10 Michigan State still looming as the marquee matchup of the season on Nov. 8, Ohio State still has to travel to Penn State, which won't be an easy task. So when you look at the game against Maryland, this really is one of the tougher contests this season in the Big Ten for the Buckeyes.
A win over the Terps could do great things for confidence as they enter their last bye week to prepare for the final stretch of the season. Now is the time to get Ohio State ready for the thick of the season as they try and contend for a Big Ten title and possibly more, provided they can execute on running the table.