Let's check in on how Maryland is doing so far this season:
Regardless of what happens to Edsall after Saturday's matchup, Ohio State has an excellent chance to continue making strides on each side of the ball as it heads into the heart of conference play. Coming off of last week's narrow victory over Indiana, the Buckeyes are back at home, and face a team with a bad offense, and a middle of the road defense. After looking like their 2014 selves at times the last few weeks, can the Buckeyes finally put together a complete performance against an inferior team? Here are five things to watch on Saturday:
More touchdowns, please?
Have you heard that Ohio State isn't very good in the redzone this season? It's quite terrible, really. One of the biggest stories after the Indiana game was Ohio State's inability to finish, as none of their three redzone visits ended in touchdowns. This has been an alarming issue all season for a team that's historically been great at capitalizing.
The Buckeyes are nestled comfortably at 121st nationally in redzone touchdown percentage, a far cry from the 13th, 1st, and 2nd spots they occupied the first three years of the Urban Meyer era. Since playing Hawaii in week two, the Buckeyes have scored one touchdown in nine redzone opportunities, while making six field goals.
This week, Meyer pointed to not running the quarterback as much with Cardale Jones at the helm as a possible culprit to these issues. The Ohio State offense has gone away from the heavy dose of quarterback runs we saw last season, but there hasn't been a suitable replacement that fits Jones' strengths yet. Making matters worse has been issues throwing the ball once the offense gets that close to paydirt.
The Buckeyes have yet to throw a touchdown in the redzone this season, with Jones only completing 2 of 10 passes. In his short career, Jones is 8 of 24 in redzone attempts with two touchdowns. He's been criticized for not having a lot of touch on his throws, and right or wrong, needs to improve when the Buckeyes are in scoring position.
He and the Buckeyes have a good shot of reversing that trend against the Terrapins. Maryland ranks 102 nationally in defensive redzone touchdown percentage, and have given up seven passing touchdowns with no interceptions. Look for Jones, and the Buckeye offense to awake from their redzone slumber.
Next Receiver up
It's been a rough year for Zone 6. Not only did the Buckeyes lose two senior leaders from last year's team in Evan Spencer and Devin Smith, but so far, have been plagued with injury and inconsistency. Through four weeks, Noah Brown and Corey Smith are already out for the season, while Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Jalin Marshall, and Dontre Wilson have missed time either due to injury or suspension. Add in the rocky start to the Braxton Miller experiment, and this group has nowhere to go but up.
The good news is that the Buckeyes already have their rock in Michael Thomas. The star receiver has been efficient, catching 20 of his 27 targets, and looks very much like one of the best receivers in the country. If the Indiana game is any indication, help is on the way.
Despite two bad fumbles last week, Jalin Marshall is emerging as the secondary threat for the Buckeyes passing attack. Marshall set career highs in catches (6) and yards (110) last week, and should continue to get looks against what's been a bad Maryland secondary. With Maryland possibly opting to have star corner Will Likely on Thomas for most of the game, the rest of the Buckeye receivers may have more than ample room to operate.
Turning it over
Just how prolific are Maryland's turnover woes?:
Through its first five games of 2015, Maryland quarterbacks have thrown 15 interceptions. That three-interception per-game average puts Maryland on pace to set the collegiate football record for the most ever in one season.
Maryland's three interceptions thrown per game so far are nearly twice the average of the next-worst power-conference team (Virginia at 1.6) and one interception per game worse than the next biggish program on the list (Cincinnati, at two).
..."We just have been horrible and horrendous at taking care of the football, especially on offense," said coordinator Mike Locksley. "It starts with the quarterbacks, and it starts with me."
Maryland's turnover woes – a minus-9 margin, tied for second-worst in FBS – stem entirely from interceptions. The Terps have only lost two fumbles, placing them among the better teams in the country.
That couldn't be better for a Buckeye team dealing with its own turnover problems so far. We've seen the Silver Bullets turn teams over at a decent enough rate that whoever ends up starting at QB for Maryland should make a few more mistakes on Saturday. Ohio State's defense has already scored in 3 of five games this season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them get a few opportunities with the ball in their hands Saturday.
2nd and long
Compounding Maryland's problem throwing the ball to the other team far too often, has been a lack of efficiency. Maryland is one of the least efficient teams in the country, especially on standard downs. The Terps rank 120th nationally in standard down success rate, finding themselves in far too many 2nd-and-3rd and longs.
This inefficiency plays right into Ohio State's strengths on defense. The Buckeyes rank 5th nationally in defensive success rate, and have gotten to the quarterback almost as much as any team in the country in such situations.
They'll need to keep that up, because while Maryland has been poor on standard downs, they've generated big plays on passing downs. Conversely the Ohio State defense has given up a few too many big plays on said passing downs. With depth in the secondary getting thinner each week, it's imperative that the defensive line leaves Maryland with little chance to complete those passes.
Off to the races
Our Chad Peltier mentioned that Ohio State hasn't started fast much this season, and Saturday could be the game that changes that trend. Aside from some conservative play calling with the lead late in last week's win over Indiana, the offense did look smoother as the game went on than it had the previous three weeks.
Some untimely turnovers and a costly penalty on Braxton Miller thwarted what should have been a supreme offensive effort. It's hard to count on Ezekiel Elliott breaking off multiple 50 yard runs every week, but Elliott should be in line for another big day. If Elliott and the offensive line can open things up for the play action game early, there isn't much saying that Maryland can keep up.