Before Ohio State can turn their attention to Michigan, the Buckeyes have one more opponent to get through. Ohio State travels to College Park on Saturday to take on the Maryland Terrapins. The Buckeyes head into this game with a a 10-0 record, marking the fourth time in the last 10 years they have started a season 10-0. Ohio State now has won at least 10 games in a season for the 29th time, which is the fourth-highest total amongst FBS schools.
Last time out
After an uninspiring performance two weeks ago in heavy winds at Northwestern, the Buckeyes handled the weather a lot better on Saturday in Columbus, beating Indiana 56-14. Ohio State finished the game with 322 yards passing and 340 yards rushing, giving them their fourth 300-300 game under Ryan Day. Prior to this century, Ohio State had only accomplished that feat twice. The 662 total yards are the fifth-most accumulated on offense under Day.
With the game well in hand, there was quite an emotional moment in the fourth quarter against the Hoosiers. C.J. Stroud found Kamryn Babb for a touchdown to push the score to 56-14. The reception and touchdown were the first of Babb’s college career. The wide receiver has been plagued by injuries during his time in Columbus, suffering four ACL injuries since 2018. Prior to the start of the season, Babb was voted as one of the team captains by his teammates.
History against Maryland
Now Ohio State will make their first trip to College Park since 2018. The Buckeyes and Terrapins have met seven times since Maryland joined the Big Ten, with Ohio State winning all seven meetings. The closest game in the series was in 2018, when Ohio State won a back-and-forth game 52-51 in overtime. Aside from that thrilling contest, the rest of the games between the schools haven’t been entertaining, with the Buckeyes winning thee other six meetings by at least 21 points. After a 66-17 win in Columbus last season, Ohio State is averaging 59.4 points per game against Maryland.
With five touchdowns last week, C.J. Stroud now has 34 passing touchdowns this season, making him the first Big Ten quarterback to throw at least 30 touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. Stroud’s 78 career touchdown passes are tied for fourth-most in Big Ten history with Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. While it’s hard to see Stroud matching J.T. Barrett’s 104 career touchdowns, he could possibly reach second place before the end of the year, which is currently held by Drew Brees, who had 90 touchdown passes at Purdue.
The Ohio State quarterback leads an offense that is second in the nation, averaging 46.8 points per game. The Buckeyes had reached the red zone 49 times this year and have come away with points on 47 of those drives, with 40 red zone trips ending with a touchdown. Last year against Maryland, Stroud threw for 406 yards and five touchdowns in the blowout win.
Just like his pops
It has become obvious who Stroud’s favorite target is this year. Marvin Harrison Jr. is stating his case for the Biletnikoff Award, leading the Buckeyes with 60 receptions, 969 yards receiving, and 11 touchdowns, which rank third in the country. Last week against the Hoosiers, Harrison finished with seven catches for 135 yards, giving the son of the Pro Football Hall of Famer his fifth game with at least 100 yards receiving this season.
Another target that had a big game last week was tight end Cade Stover, who caught two touchdowns, giving him five scores on the season. With two more touchdowns, Stover will tie Jake Stoneburner and Ricky Dudley for most touchdowns by a Buckeye tight end. Stover has caught 29 passes this year, and the game against the Hoosiers was the second this season where Stover scored twice in a game.
As impressive as Ohio State was throwing the football in inclement weather last week, the Buckeyes were even better at running the football. After failing to get much done on the ground against Iowa and Penn State, Ohio State ran for over 200 yards against Northwestern, followed by 340 yards against Indiana.
One major struggle Ohio State has had this year is keeping their running backs healthy. TreVeyon Henderson has missing the last two games with a recurring foot injury. Miyan Williams was having a great game against Indiana, rushing for 147 yards and a score on 15 carries, before being forced to leave the game with a leg injury.
Prior to Williams leaving Saturday’s game, Dallan Hayden saw some carries, scoring Ohio State’s second touchdown of the game. Hayden was leaned on more after the injury to Williams. The freshman from Memphis finished 102 yards on the ground, securing his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, with the first coming against Toledo.
Head coach Ryan Day is optimistic that Williams, Henderson, and Chip Trayanum will be able to play this week. With the Michigan game looming, if the trio play, they likely won’t get heavy usage. Not only should Hayden see more time, Xavier Johnson might also see a few carries. Johnson scampered 71 yards for a score on his only carry last week.
Most of the headlines lately on the defensive line have gone to J.T. Tuimoloau after his once in a lifetime game against Penn State. Last week Jack Sawyer made people remember why he was one of the most sought after defensive ends coming out of high school. Against the Hoosiers, Sawyer had a sack and a half, pushing his total to 3.5 on the season, which is just a sack behind defensive tackle Michael Hall Jr.’s team-leading 4.5 sacks.
At linebacker there are no questions who the stars are for the Buckeyes. Tommy Eichenberg is eight stops away from becoming the first Ohio State linebacker since Raekwon McMillan to record 100 tackles in a season. 11 of Eichenberg’s tackles this year have come behind the line of scrimmage.
Second on the Buckeyes is Steele Chambers, who has 62 tackles. The former running back always seems to be around the football. A little over a year ago, Chambers saw his role expand at linebacker with Ohio State getting inconsistent play from some of their other linebackers. Not only is Chambers starting at linebacker, he is one of the most trusted players on the Buckeye defense.
Night and day
The biggest transformation for the Ohio State defense has come in the secondary. Currently, Ohio State is allowing just over 160 yards passing per game, which miles better than what we saw from the secondary last year. While there are still some moments where opponents are able hit big passes, like late in the first quarter last week, the three safety look that defensive coordinator likes to run has really benefitted the Buckeye pass defense.
Rough ride of late
Following a 6-2 start to the season, Maryland hasn’t played well the last two games, falling 23-10 to Wisconsin two weeks, and getting shut out 30-0 last week in State College against Penn State. The Terrapins are looking to reach seven wins for the second straight season after beating Virginia Tech in the Pinstripe Bowl and finishing with a 7-6 record last season. Prior to last year, the last time Maryland had won at least seven games in a season came back in 2014 under head coach Randy Edsall.
The current head coach is Mike Locksley, who was hired by the school in 2019. Actually, the hiring was Locksley’s second stint as head coach of the Terrapins, as he was interim coach for final six games of the 2015 season after the firing of Edsall. After the 2015 season, Locksley joined Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama before being re-hired by Maryland. During his time as Maryland’s head coach, Locksley has a 19-27 record.
Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa will be making his 26th start for Terrapins on Saturday. Tagovailoa has already set numerous school passing records in his three seasons in College Park. Not only were the 26 touchdown passes he threw last year a single-season school record, his 47 career touchdown tosses are the second-most in school history, three away from passing Scott Milanovich. Tagovailoa is also less than 300 yards away from moving past Milanovich for most passing yards in school history.
Tagovailoa has been solid this year, but he hasn’t been quite as good as last year. The dip in production can be attributed to some injury issues he was dealing with earlier in the year, which caused Billy Edwards Jr. to start games against Northwestern and Wisconsin. An area where Tagovailoa has been consistent this year has been with his completion percentage. Tagovailoa has completed nearly 70 percent on his passes the last two years, and for his career is completing passes at a 67.9 percent clip, good for seventh-best amongst active FBS quarterbacks.
Spreading it around
The Maryland quarterback does a great job at spreading the football around, as the Terrapins have seven players with at least 14 catches this season. Rakim Jarrett leads the team with 37 catches and 406 yards receiving. Corey Dyches and Jacob Copeland are a couple deep threats the Buckeyes will have to keep tabs on. Copeland leads the team with 15 yards per catch, while Dyches is averaging 13.3 yards per reception.
One Maryland receiver that has disappointed this year is Dontay Demus Jr. Last year Demus had 507 yards receiving, averaging 18 yards per catch, and this year he has just 14 catches for 153 yards. Prior to this year, Demus had at least 24 catches in each of the last three years. Jeshaun Jones has picked up some of the slack for Demus, already setting a career-high with 28 receptions.
Running back Roman Hemby is quietly putting together a very solid season. After seeing limited action last year, Hemby has been Maryland’s feature back this year, racking up 815 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. Hemby is also a threat out of the backfield, hauling in 27 passes for 239 yards. Hemby has two games of at least 150 yards rushing this year, finishing with 151 yards in the win over SMU earlier in the year. Last month against Northwestern, Hemby ran for a career-high 179 yards and three touchdowns.
An area where Maryland has been getting a lack of production lately has been in their pass protection. After allowing just 13 sacks in the first seven games of the season, the Terrapins have allowed 16 sacks over the last three contests, including seven last week against Penn State. The issues they’ve had of late have been surprising since they have four linemen with at least 16 career starts. Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan is most experienced with 36 career starts, while senior right guard Spencer Anderson has 30 career starts, and left guard Johari Branch has 28 career starts.
The strength of the Maryland defense is at safety. Beau Brade leads the team with 67 tackles. Brade also has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and five passes defensed this season. The junior has teamed with Dante Trader Jr., who is second on the team with 49 tackles. Trader also has two interceptions and three passes defensed. Cornerbacks Deonte Banks, Jakorian Bennett, and Tarheeb Still all have intercepted a pass this year.
Maryland has struggled at times to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year. Linebacker Greg China-Rose leads the team with four sacks this year, while Durell Nchami and Jaishawn Barham each have three sacks in 2022. For the year, Maryland has just 21 sacks as a team. The lack of a pass rush isn’t something you want to deal with against C.J. Stroud, who is already tough enough to bring down.
What has hurt Maryland to find consistency on defense is they haven’t been able to field the same lineup very often. Through the first 10 games of the season, the Terrapins have had 25 different players make a start. While Maryland has some talented players on defense, when there are so many different players starting it can be hard to get comfortable, which could lead to communication miscues, resulting in opponents being able to make some big plays.
Ohio State is the better team in this game, but the Buckeyes can’t just assume they are going to roll over Maryland in College Park. Day was a part of Urban Meyer’s staff in 2018 when the Terrapins took the Buckeyes to overtime the week before the Michigan game. While Ohio State might have not been quite as focused that year since they were already out of the national title race, they know they are going to get Maryland’s best shot.
The biggest concern for Ohio State is who is going to be available to run the football for the Buckeyes on Saturday. When Ohio State is at their best, their running game is clicking, opening up the passing game more since opposing defenses have to respect both the run and the pass. After two ugly performances running the football against Iowa and Penn State, Ohio State has gotten better over the last two weeks.
While C.J. Stroud struggled mightily against Northwestern, the performance feels a bit like an anomaly because of the wind in Evanston. Last week Stroud showed he can be productive in the snow and wind that the Buckeyes encountered in Columbus. Luckily for Stroud and Ohio State, they shouldn’t have to deal with anything that should hamper them too much in College Park on Saturday.
It also helps Ohio State that they are catching Maryland while the Terrapins are dealing with some adversity. While Maryland would love to get to eight or nine wins this year, they have already secured bowl eligibility this year, and they should be able to gain a seventh regular season win next week against Rutgers. Even though the Terrapins aren’t going to threaten the Buckeyes or Wolverines at the top of the Big Ten East standings, they are at least taking steps in the right direction so they aren’t a doormat in the conference.
There’s always a danger when taking on a quarterback like Tagovailoa, the Buckeyes are catching him during a time when he is not only coming off an injury, he also has struggled over the last two games. If Ohio State is able to get a couple of early stops, they should be able to put some distances on the Terrapins, which would allow them to pull some starters to keep them rested and healthy for next week’s colossal clash against Michigan.