For the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes, with each week, it is getting more and more difficult to see a path to the College Football Playoff without some significant help above them. However, the only thing that Urban Meyer and his team can control is the task in front of them, and this Saturday, Nov. 17 at 12 noon ET, that task takes them to College Park, Md., to take on the Maryland Terrapins.
To get an idea as to what exactly the Buckeyes are going to be up against in the Terps on Saturday, we talked to Thomas Kendziora, one of the managing editors at SB Nation’s Maryland blog Testudo Times about what Ohio State fans should expect from the Terps on Saturday afternoon.
LGHL: For very different reasons, both Ohio State and Maryland’s seasons have been overshadowed in by very serious off-field investigations. While not everything is finalized yet in College Park, is there a general consensus amongst Terp fans about how things have been handled to this point, and what they would like to see happen next?
Thomas Kendziora: The only consensus among Maryland fans is that the whole thing was handled poorly.
In the case of D.J. Durkin in particular, opinions can vary based on what you’ve read and what you prioritize. He was building an incredibly talented team, but the wins weren’t there yet. The ESPN report on Maryland’s “toxic” culture painted him in an incredibly negative light, while high-level boosters rode hard for him to the end. The report on Maryland’s culture places him somewhere in the middle. It would have been almost impossible for him to return to his job, which he somehow did for about 28 hours before a firestorm of backlash ultimately compelled university president Wallace Loh to reverse the Board of Regents decision.
There’s so much more to this than Durkin, though. Loh is retiring in June, but some fans want him fired now and others want him to remain in his position. Nobody seems to have a great explanation for why Damon Evans is still the athletic director other than “he was hired this summer and is on a six-year contract.” It’s unclear to what extent their futures are set in stone. Either way, Maryland needs a new football coach at the end of the season. So whether it makes sense or not, that’ll probably be the first domino to fall from here.
LGHL: Looking on the field, Maryland is one of the best rushing teams in the conference, ranking third in ground yards per game with 234.9. I know that the running backs are a bit banged up right now, but the Terps have six backs averaging over 18 yards on the ground per game – OSU has only two averaging more than 4 ypg for comparison. Do you think that this rotation of backs has been effective for Maryland, or would you have liked to see Matt Canada focus on or two primary backs?
Thomas Kendziora: That “six backs” stat is a little misleading; Maryland has hardly ever used more than four in a given game, but a revolving door of injuries has given everyone a chance. Anthony McFarland, who ran for 210 yards on 29 carries last week, has launched himself to the top of the heap after redshirting last season, and fellow redshirt freshman Tayon Fleet-Davis has been a power back that adds a little more. Speed backs Ty Johnson (who Ohio State fans will remember for his 100-yard kick return in last season’s matchup) and Javon Leake (who had that bonkers four-touchdown game against Illinois) are game-time decisions. Jake Funk should be a factor if those two are out, and the sixth man, Lorenzo Harrison III, is out for the year.
It’s a double-edged sword having this many talented running backs. Everyone adds something a little different, and the position group is capable of handling the slew of injuries it’s been dealt with. But all of these backs are worthy of more carries than they’ve gotten, and breakout games from McFarland and Leake are clear examples of that.
LGHL: With the horrible news of Kasim Hill’s second torn ACL, it looks like redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome will be under center on Saturday. Obviously the Terps are a predominantly rushing offense, but what should Buckeye fans expect to see from the dual-threat QB who has had only limited playing time this season?
Thomas Kendziora: Pigrome is primarily a runner; he’s had two games in his career (last year at Texas and last week at Indiana) in which he looked like a high major-quality passer. If he’s connecting on his throws, Maryland’s offense can hit another gear. All season, though, neither he nor Hill has been clicking in the passing game, and good defenses have been able to take advantage of the Terps for being one-dimensional.
But it’s hard to say what to expect in this game. We haven’t seen a full outing from Pigrome since 2016, and he’s a totally different player now than he was as a true freshman.
LGHL: The Terps are currently second in the Big Ten in terms of passing defense, allowing only 181.8 yards per game, while Ohio State leads the conference with 354.9 ypg. How do you think defensive coordinator Andy Buh and the defense will attack Dwayne Haskins and OSU’s veteran corp of receivers?
Thomas Kendziora: Maryland’s secondary has been a strength all season, but has gotten thinner due to midseason transfers and struggled last week against Indiana. That yardage-per-game number is a little deceiving, as it counts an EIGHT-yard performance by Rutgers, and Maryland’s committed its fair share of pass interference penalties.
Still, this is a defense that has 17 interceptions this season. If the Terps are going to challenge Ohio State, they’ll do so by forcing takeaways.
LGHL: If you had your pick from legitimate options (Saban and Belichick are off the table), who would you want to be the next Maryland football coach?
Thomas Kendziora: The name most regularly thrown around is Mike Locksley, who was the Terps’ offensive coordinator under Randy Edsall and interim head coach after Edsall’s firing, but was passed over for the permanent gig and went to Alabama. (Of note: Dwayne Haskins *probably* enrolls at Maryland if he gets that job.)
He’s got the local recruiting ties and has been successful as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, but he’s 3-31 as a head coach with extra baggage from his time at New Mexico. Another coach with similar qualifications who has reportedly expressed interest in the job is Georgia DC Mel Tucker. And there’s also a faction of the fan base that wants Matt Canada to get the full-time position because of the job he’s done keeping the team together this season.
Of course, there will be a lot of other names to be linked to this job. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.
LGHL: For any Buckeye fans planning on coming to the game, what are some places that they should visit around campus before or after the game?
Thomas Kendziora: As far as on-campus attractions, the must-see spot is McKeldin Mall, which is pretty hard to miss. I wish I could say we had a signature restaurant or food spot, but the bars actually have more personality than any other places.
Either Looney’s or Bentley’s is a pretty good spot depending on which side of campus you’re on.
LGHL: What do you expect to happen in the game?
Thomas Kendziora: If enough of the running backs are healthy, I can see Maryland making this interesting for at least a little while. But I can’t see an upset. Give me Buckeyes 38, Terps 17.
The No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, Nov. 17 at noon ET in a game to be broadcast on ABC. Land-Grant Holy Land and Testudo Times will have you covered from both sides of the matchup as we head into the weekend.