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Maryland-Ohio State preview: Breaking down the statistics

Is Maryland a contender for the Big Ten East? Saturday will go a long way to determining if the Terps are the real deal.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

The most anticipated home game in many years is upon us.  The Ohio State Buckeyes visit Byrd Stadium Saturday in a game of firsts: Maryland's first Big Ten home game, Ohio State's first visit to Byrd, and the first game between the two programs.  The Terps want to make a statement with this game, and look capable of knocking off a vulnerable Ohio State squad.  Every game means a lot in college football, but the historical significance of this game, along with the opponent should make for an electrifying atmosphere Saturday.

Maryland Offense vs. Ohio State Defense (all statistics are per game)


Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion Percentage

Rushing yards


Maryland Offense









OSU Defense









The most encouraging observation from Maryland's last two games has been play calling.  I have been highly critical of Mike Locksley's game plans in the past, but he appears to have hit his stride, mixing in wide receiver screens, short passes, and the occasional deep ball.  Against Indiana, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both had over 100 yards receiving for the first time all season.  Regardless of the starting quarterback Saturday, I have confidence that Maryland's offense can be effective - whether it will depends on Ohio State's defense.

The Buckeye's front seven is the best Maryland has seen so far this season.  Maryland's offensive line has started to gel, but will be challenged in both pass protection and run blocking.  Encouragingly, Ohio State's secondary has struggled at times, surrendering explosive plays through the air.  Maryland's offense needs to be fired up and ready to play because they will have to execute perfectly to stay on the field and put up points.

Maryland Defense vs. Ohio State Offense


Total Yards

3rd down conversions

Time of possession

Passing yards

Completion percentage

Rushing yards

Turnovers per game

OSU Offense









Maryland  Defense









Redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett had some large shoes to fill following the season ending injury to Braxton Miller.  For the most part Barrett has played well.  Barrett has an accurate arm, completing over 60% of his passes for over 1,000 yards so far this season.  The highly touted freshman is also the second leading rusher on his team, averaging 51 yards per game (even after sack totals are subtracted).  Barrett is on pace to throw for over 3,000 yards, rush for over 600, and account for 42 touchdowns.  In short, Ohio State hasn't missed Braxton Miller much thus far.  The freshman quarterback has still struggled at times.  Barrett had his worst career outing in a home loss to Virginia Tech.  Against the Hokies Barrett went just 9-29 with 3 interceptions and 1 touchdown.

Ohio State's offense has exhibited some Jeckyll and Hyde behavior through 4 games.  The Buckeyes struggled at against Navy and Virginia Tech, but hit their stride against Kent State and Cincinnati.  OSU is breaking in 4 new starters on the youngest offensive line in the Big Ten.  Although inexperienced, the O-line is still big and talented.  Running back Ezekiel Elliott is averaging 80 yards per game, and has been solid but not stellar.

Maryland's defense has played well of late, despite a rash of injuries.  Will Likely leads the Big Ten in interceptions with 3, and Yannick Ngakoue is second in the Big Ten at 1.4 TFL per game.  I expect Maryland's offense to surrender their share of points and yards against OSU, but the Terps need to force the Buckeyes into field goals instead of touchdowns.

Special Teams

Field goals

Field goal conversion %

Punts per game

Penalties per game

Return Yards (Punt/KO)



(long of 49 yards)



6.4 (59.8 YPG)

22.5 / 25.3



(long of 46 yards)



5.5 (46.2 YPG)

13.7 / 21.5

This section almost writes itself.  Maryland continues to field one of the best special teams units in college football.  ESPN's efficiency metric pegs the Terp's special teams unit at #3 this week (contributing 6.28 points per game); Ohio State checks in a #40 contributing only 1.29 points per game.  Stefon Diggs leads the conference in kick return average, notching 29.4 yards per return.  Maryland's Will Likely also leads all Big Ten punt returners, averaging 22 yards per attempt  Likely has Diggs beat on touchdowns, however.  Diggs has yet to break through and return a kickoff for a touchdown this year, but I think that streak comes to an end Saturday - look for Diggs to take one to the house and send Byrd into the stratosphere.

Ohio State has a solid kicker in Sean Nuernberger.  The freshman is converting at a high percentage and has a good leg - he's 3-4 beyond 40 yards.  Thanks to their prolific offense, OSU has not punted the ball much, just 2.5 times per game.  OSU's coverage teams have not surrendered a score this season (OSU leads the conference in net kickoff yards), nor have their return units scored.  Maryland has the edge on special teams thanks to Craddock, Diggs, and Likely.


On paper Ohio State has played a respectable schedule thus far, facing Navy, Virginia Tech, Kent State, and Cincinnati.  Their strength of schedule, however, sits at just 95th out of 128 teams.  Maryland, by contrast, ranks 28th in strength of schedule.  The uncertainty at quarterback, and the intangibles make this a very difficult game to predict.  But I can't pick against the Terps in their first Big Ten home game: Maryland 37, Ohio State 35

Bonus predictions: Craddock kicks the game winner, and Diggs scores on a kickoff return.

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