With only three games left on the schedule, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) are in prime position to crash the playoff party if they can keep up their winning ways. The club returns to the road on Saturday when they visit College Park to tussle with the Maryland Terrapins (5-4, 2-4). Here’s what you need to know in anticipation of the matchup.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 2-0. In 2014, Maryland’s first season in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes handled the Terps 49-28 in MD. Last year, the Bucks mashed their guests 52-24 in Columbus. While Maryland has not struggled quite as much as Rutgers since joining the conference, they too have found limited success. A 4-4 conference record in 2014 showed promise, but the club took a major step backwards last season falling to 1-7 in conference. Their lone win was against Rutgers so the victory did not make a loud statement. Twenty-two games into their Big Ten tenure, Maryland is 7-15 against conference foes with a middling 0-7 record against ranked schools. The good news is they’re still better than Rutgers.
This season, Maryland opened up strong with wins over Howard, FIU, and UCF to open the season. They won the conference opener at home against Purdue before dropping a pair against Penn State and Minnesota. A home win against Michigan State (who is also in freefall) was not enough to reverse the momentum; the Terps lost their last two road games at Indiana and Michigan. Even though the Turtles are not in contention for the Big Ten East, they remain a win away from bowl eligibility. Furthermore, first year head coach D. J. Durkin would love nothing more than a signature victory to change the perception of Maryland football. If it comes at the expense of his former boss Urban Meyer all the better.
Throwback Program of the Week:
Let’s cast our eyes back 75 years to 1941. Ohio State sits poised to take on Missouri on a fine fall afternoon. We see either a gigantic woman next to two normal sized players or a normal sized woman facing two toy football figures (most likely it’s the second one). She sits idly with a dollar bill in hand trying to decide which team deserves her money. Is this program implicitly endorsing sports gambling? The intended purpose seems to be a quandry as to which player/team will win, but the betting undertones are undeniable. Also, what is her hangup? Clad completely in red, the game is in Columbus, is there any doubt that she will choose the Buckeye as her champion? I like to think she does. Ohio State won the game in question 12-7.
Senior quarterback Perry Hills is the mitochondrion of the Terps offense – he makes it work. He has thrown 97-of-144 for 1,143 yards, ten touchdowns, and three interceptions. His top target is D.J. Moore who has 466 yards and five touchdowns. A stable of running backs populate the ground game from Ty Johnson (635 yards, four touchdowns) to Lorenzo Harrison (633 yards, five touchdowns).
After a few weeks of uneven play, Ohio State comforted Buckeye Nation last week with their resounding 62-3 victory over then-No. 10 Nebraska. The Bucks held the Cornhuskers to 204 yards of total offense while putting up 590 yards. The most amazing stat of 2016 might be that 590 yards of total offense is the THIRD most yards the team has accumulated in a single game this season. One of the best quiet storylines this season has been Ohio State’s dominance in turnover margin. Through nine games the Silver Bullets have forced five fumbles (four recovered) and intercepted fourteen pass attempts. The Bucks’ offense has made the ghost of Woody Hayes proud, surrendering the ball only eight times (four fumbles, four picks). The club’s +11 turnover margin is a shining example of the kind of team Urban Meyer loves – one that steals the ball from opponents then takes care of it.
This week’s game is not terribly exciting on paper. Ohio State is favored by 29.5 points and few would be surprised if the Bucks covered that spread. This game, and to some extension next week’s clash with Michigan State, feels like the local band who performs before the main event. That School Up North is Coming. Maryland will be a fine chance for Ohio State to round into shape and ready themselves for a playoff push.