Goodbye bye weeks, hello November!
With eight games in the books and four regular season games remaining, the Ohio State Buckeyes will celebrate their first-ever appearance at the top of the regular season College Football Playoff rankings by hosting the Maryland Terrapins this weekend.
Maryland had a scalding start to the season, as they racked up 142 points in their first two games while completely annihilating then-ranked #21 Syracuse at home in College Park. However, since that victory, the Terps have gone full herp-derp on their way to losing six of their last seven games while eclipsing 20 points only twice since early September. Their lone victory over that stretch came against a Rutgers team that seldom looks like it’s playing the same sport as the rest of the Big Ten.
Anthony McFarland Jr. is still around after going for nearly 300 rushing yards against the Buckeyes last season, but with the memory of that disastrous near-upset still fresh in the minds of the remaining Silver Bullets, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State having anything close to a difficult time in this year’s edition of the game. This will likely be the easiest win the Buckeyes will have all season, not including next week’s date in New Brunswick.
Still, let’s see what these Herpy-Derpy Terpies have to offer:
Buckeye Offense vs. Terrapin Defense
It would be highly disingenuous to say that there’s anything Maryland’s defense does “well.” They are one of only two teams in the Big Ten that allows more than 400 yards of offense per game to their opponents (the other is — duh — Rutgers). They allow the most passing yards per game in the Big Ten by a fairly considerable margin (250.4, Purdue is next to last at 232.9), and while their allowed-rushing yards per game is slightly above average by national standards, they still rank in the bottom half of the Big Ten at 151 ypg.
Metric stats paint an even worse picture than conventional ones. According to Football Outsiders, the only Defensive Fremeau Efficiency Index (DFEI) rating that Maryland scores among the top 87 teams in the country is First Down Rate, which represents the percentage of opponent’s drives that result in at least one first down or a score. They rank 61st nationally at 72.1%.
Their defensive line in particular is not very impressive. Other than stuffing runs on 3rd/4th and short situations, the only other strength of note Maryland’s front has is stopping runs on passing downs according to Football Outsiders’ defensive line stats. Otherwise, their run defense performance scores as fairly average, and their sack rate numbers are some of the worst in all of college football. In particular, their passing downs sack rate of only 4.7% ranks 113th out of 130 teams at the FBS level.
The Ohio State passing game could use a good tune-up after struggling somewhat in the face of Wisconsin’s defense and less-than-ideal weather conditions in their previous contest. Between a porous secondary and an uninspiring pass rush, Maryland seems like the perfect team to right the ship against. Look for Justin Fields to have a huge first half spreading the ball around to the entire Buckeye receiving corps, while J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague III likely run out the clock in the second half.
Terrapin Offense vs. Buckeye Defense
The strength of this Maryland team — if you want to call it that — is its offense. They are one of the top five running teams in the Big Ten in terms of rushing yards per game (184.2) and are surprisingly second only to Ohio State with respect to yards per carry (4.98). In a surprising turn of events, the Terps’ leading rusher this season has actually been junior tailback Javon Leake, as opposed to the aforementioned McFarland Jr. that carved up the Buckeyes as a freshman last season. McFarland Jr. is still handling more carries, but Leake has been the more effective running back so far in 2019, averaging 7.7 yards per carry versus the former’s 4.9 ypc. Each has seven rushing touchdowns apiece through their nine games.
But the two-headed turtle monster at tailback becomes far less intimidating when factoring in Maryland’s offensive line. Of the six offensive line run blocking figures Football Outsiders tracks throughout the season, the Terrapins’ blockers along the line of scrimmage rank among the top 78 teams in college football in only one statistic. Their five other run blocking rankings currently grade between the 79th and 90th positions among all 130 FBS teams. Conversely, Ohio State’s defensive line ranks in the top 20 for every one of these statistics evaluated from a defensive perspective, including four top three rankings and two number one overall grades. If Wisconsin’s rushing attack couldn’t threaten the Silver Bullets, there’s absolutely no reason to think Maryland will fare any better.
The Terps’ passing attack is also completely unthreatening, which is fairly shocking given how efficient they looked running the RPO against Syracuse back at the start of September. Maryland’s average of 184.3 passing yards per game ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten, their completion percentage of 52.5% is currently next-to-last only to Northwestern, and they are one of only four Big Ten teams this season that has already allowed a double-digit sack total.
If this Terrapin offense cannot control the ball on the ground, consistently gain yards, and keep time-of-possession out of Ohio State’s favor; then Maryland has no chance of making this a competitive game. The Terps also have fairly below average surrendered sack rate numbers, so I would expect Chase Young to have a solid stat line to add to his growing Heisman profile.
The Bottom Line
Maryland simply is not in the same class as Ohio State when it comes to football. Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings were kind enough to slot Maryland at 63rd overall heading into Week 11, but a closer look at the stats reveals a team that is fairly below average in most areas on both sides of the line of scrimmage. With an offensive FEI rating of 99th nationally to go with a defensive FEI rating of 94th nationally, the Terrapins simply aren’t a team that appear they can hang with a flagship football program of Ohio State’s nature.
Penn State beat Maryland 59-0 in College Park on a Friday night earlier this season coming off of a bye week. A similar result is in the cards for Saturday in Columbus.