On Saturday the No. 10 Ohio State University Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0 B1G) return to Columbus for their first home conference game of the season. Appropriately the game doubles as Homecoming. Across the field, the Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 1-0) come calling looking for their second league win of the year.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 3-0. The Bucks and Terps have met three times since the latter joined the Big Ten in 2014. The Bucks won 52-24 in 2014, 49-28 in 2015, and 62-3 in 2016. Maryland has offered little resistance to the Scarlet and Gray steamroller so far, but could conceivably conduct themselves better this round.
Since leaving the ACC, Maryland has gone 16-22 (8-17 Big Ten). They lost the Foster Farms Bowl in 2014 and dropped the Quick Lane Bowl last season. The Terps have made a little more noise in 2017, however. Maryland opened the season in Austin with a shocking 51-41 victory over then-No. 23 Texas. The Longhorns don’t figure to be anything special, but winning against such a storied program on the road gave the school a rallying point. An easy win over Towson followed before Maryland dropped a head-scratching 38-10 home loss to UCF. Last week Maryland flew to Minneapolis and went toe-to-toe with Minnesota in securing a 31-24 victory. Second year head coach DJ Durkin has the Terrapins believing that they belong on the field with anyone, including OSU.
Three different players have stepped under center for Maryland, but sophomore Max Bortenschlager started and against Minny and figures to be their guy going forward. Bortenschlager has completed 34-of-56 passes for 290 yards, three touchdowns, and two picks. The ground game features both junior Ty Johnson (46 carries, 411 yards, 4 touchdowns) and sophomore Lorenzo Harrison III (46 carries, 201 yards). Junior D.J. Moore leads all receivers with 30 catches, 403 yards, and five touchdowns. He is a focal point of the UMd passing game plan.
The Homecoming Game might only resonate with alumni, but the game has served as the background for a number of memorable Ohio State contests. The Buckeyes haven’t lost at Homecoming since 2008 when No. 3 Penn State engineered a 13-6 victory. The 2011 Homecoming Game against no. 12 Wisconsin culminated with a heart-stopping 33-29 victory and field storming (fun fact: my wife and I were both at that game but would not actually meet for another ten months). Russell Wilson’s final pass fell wanting as a national television, prime time audience watched Ohio State celebrate the best win in a lost season. The 2012 Homecoming Game saw Ohio State pummel new conference-mate Nebraska 63-38. The hits keep coming. For the second time in three years, Maryland features as the Homecoming opponent. The Bucks haven’t played a traditional Big Ten foe in the Homecoming Game since besting Iowa in 2013.
As Oklahoma wound down their victory over Ohio State last month lots of Twitter Coaches loudly wondered if senior quarterback J.T. Barrett was the right man to lead the Ohio State offense. It’s unlikely Barrett sought out such criticism, but his recent play seems to be quieting the naysayers. In the past three games Barrett has combined for 51-of-72 passing (70.8% completion), 754 yards, ten touchdowns and no interceptions. The competition has decidedly dropped in quality after the Sooners, but the stats seem to show a strong Barrett who is on his game.
Maryland’s victory over Texas was its first win over a ranked opponent since knocking off No. 23 North Carolina State in 2010. The Terps have yet to secure a win over a ranked conference opponent since joining the Big Ten though they will get their chances this year. The back end of the Maryland schedule will feature Wisconsin, Michigan, and Penn State – all of whom are currently ranked in the AP Top 10. Coach Durkin no doubt wants to take one of those games to make a statement for his program. He won’t fine any success in Columbus, however, especially not at Homecoming.