No. 3 Ohio State set to give Maryland toughest test so far
No. 3 Ohio State’s visit to Maryland for Saturday’s game got a lot more interesting in recent weeks. The undefeated Buckeyes remain a heavy favorite, but Maryland has made waves in the Big Ten with back-to-back wins, including 35-19 last week at Penn State.
But the Buckeyes (3-0, 3-0 Big Ten) have been a conference tsunami for years and regularly have capsized Maryland (2-1, 2-1), running up a 6-0 series record since the Terrapins joined the conference in 2014. Ohio State beat Penn State by a similar score (38-25) two weeks ago, then handled Rutgers 49-27 last Saturday, though OSU coach Ryan Day said he thought his team let off the gas after building a 35-3 halftime lead.
“We’re 3-0. We’re playing good football,” said Day. “We’ve got a lot of really good players on the team. We came out and played really well in the first half, but we’re critical. That’s a good thing. We want perfection, and we’re looking for greatness.”
Until recently, Maryland was just looking for competence. The Terrapins had lost eight consecutive conference games before breaking through with an overtime win at home against Minnesota on Oct. 30. Ohio State beat the Terps 73-14 last year, but a lot of players on both sides still remember the Buckeyes’ last trip to College Park in what turned into one of the best games of 2018. Ohio State survived 52-51 in overtime.
Maryland again is showing offensive firepower with sophomore Taulia Tagovailoa making things happen with his arm and legs. Tagovailoa has amassed six touchdown passes and two rushing scores the past two games, taking advantage of Maryland’s magnificent receiving corps. Freshman Rakim Jarrett had two long scoring receptions to key the upset at Penn State.
“I like the way these guys have gone about their business,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said of his team’s progress. “They’re buying into everything we’re asking of them as coaches, but we’ve still got some things to get cleaned up. I think we haven’t played our best football just yet.”
The Buckeyes feel the same way, and that’s a frightening for their opposition from week to week. They’re pounding foes by an average of 23.3 points per game, and they’ve got a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Justin Fields, who had five touchdown passes against Rutgers and for the season is responsible for more touchdowns (13) than incomplete passes (11).
The Ohio State defense leads the Big Ten with nine sacks in three games, three traps by defensive tackle Tommy Togiai, but Maryland has eight, though seven of those sacks came Saturday in the Terp defense’s best showing at Penn State. The elusive Fields won’t be as easy to find and take down.
The Buckeyes still are looking for consistency running the ball, but they’re strong — and that’s an understatement — up front on both sides of the ball. Matching up there will be Maryland’s biggest challenge. Ohio State has never scored less than 49 points in a game against Maryland and has 62 points or more in three of the past four meetings.
Overall, the Terrapins haven’t fared well against the Big Ten’s upper crust since joining up, going 3-16 against Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State. Before Maryland knocked off the Nittany Lions last week, the Terps’ average margin of defeat in such contests was more than 30 points a game.
–Field Level Media