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Three Things To Watch from Maryland

Ohio State is on upset alert against visiting Maryland.

NCAA Football: Duke’s Mayo Bowl-Maryland at North Carolina State Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a bye week, Ohio State ushers in its Homecoming weekend, welcoming the undefeated Maryland Terrapins to Ohio Stadium. Both teams are undefeated, and this game offers intrigue for the two schools.

The bye week came at an opportune time for Ohio State. The thrilling 17-14 win at Notre Dame resulted in a scary ankle injury sustained by star wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. Harrison used the off week to rehabilitate his ankle, but the junior conceded that he is not at 100% as the season resumes.

Maryland joined The B1G in 2014, and have never beaten the Buckeyes in eight tries; the 2020 scheduled game at Maryland was canceled, due to COVID-19. Maryland has been able to take Ohio State to the brink of defeat when the game has been played in College Park, Maryland in 2018 (52-51) and in 2022 (43-30). The 2022 score result is somewhat misleading, as Ohio State’s Steele Chambers scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the last seconds of the game, but Ohio State was clinging to a 36-30 lead late into the fourth quarter.

The larger point is that Maryland has not played well whenever the game has been played at Ohio Stadium, as the Buckeyes have won there in 2015 (49-28), 2017 (62-14), 2019 (73-14), and 2021 (66-17). This game represents an opportunity for Maryland to assess where the Terrapins stand in comparison to one of the better teams within the B1G East.

Below are the Three Things To Watch from Maryland, as this game will kick off at 12:00 p.m. ET on FOX.

  1. Will Emeka Egbuka continue to shine?

Egbuka came up big for the Buckeyes in the win at Notre Dame, catching seven passes for 96 yards. No reception was bigger than the play Egbuka made on a crucial 3rd-and-19 play in the final seconds of the game that not only kept Ohio State’s drive alive, but positioned the Buckeyes near the Notre Dame goal line.

With Marvin Harrison Jr. openly stating that his ankle is not fully healed, it will not be surprising if Egbuka is the primary target for the Ohio State passing game. Quarterback Kyle McCord seems to be developing a rapport with Egbuka, similar in the manner that McCord has with Harrison. It bears watching to see how Maryland decides to defend Egbuka in the passing game and how much attention is still paid to MHJ.

2. Will the Ohio State pass rush be a factor?

Neither Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau have registered a sack yet this season on an opposing quarterback, and that has Ohio State fans grumbling. Throw in a talented passer in Maryland’s Taulia Tagovailoa, who has thrown 13 touchdown passes and has completed about 67% of his passes, and it is understandable why there is an elevated level of concern for this game.

While the defensive ends have not been getting sacks, the Ohio State defensive line has been able to force quarterbacks into hurrying throws. With that rationale, considering Tagovailoa is listed at 5-foot-11, it may be possible to “box in” Tagovailoa from the outside, and get a strong pass rush from the interior defensive line. Ohio State defensive tackle Tyleik Williams, who does have a sack this season and is coming off a strong game at Notre Dame, may be able to register pressure on Tagovailoa from the middle, even batting passes down at the line of scrimmage.

3. Has Ohio State solved its short yardage woes?

The football program that used to revel in the phrase “Three Yards And A Cloud Of Dust,” during the Woody Hayes glory years are simply unable to pick up a yard running the ball on 3rd-and-1 or 4th-and-1. The Notre Dame game was an exercise in frustration, with Ohio State missing opportunities in short yardage situations.

As I wrote up above, Ohio State is coming off a bye week. Perhaps the coaching staff have identified the issues around their short yardage problems, and will use running back Chip Trayanum to move the pile if the situation presents itself. Trayanum has demonstrated the strength and speed at the running back position to be a “pile mover”, as he showed in the decisive goal line touchdown run against the Fighting Irish.

Maryland has demonstrated a strong offensive team in their 4-0 start, and should present a legitimate test for an improved Ohio State defense. While the Buckeyes have had their way with Maryland in recent years at Ohio Stadium, look for the Terrapins to battle the Buckeyes deep into the fourth quarter, when I anticipate Ohio State being able to put Maryland away. It will be key for Ohio State to harass Taulia Tagovailoa.

I have it Ohio State 35, Maryland 21.