Eternal thanks to this week's roundtable participants: Todd, John, Andrew K., Noah and Pete. As you might guess, we're again focusing on the Maryland football team and its game against Ohio State. Let's hit it:
Q. Maryland was obviously in fine form last weekend. What was the most encouraging thing you saw in Bloomington?
Todd: For me it's that the team played just about its most complete game possibly of the Edsall era. There were a few too many penalties and I though special teams underperformed a bit in the context of our pre-game expectations. I'm even going to give a bit of a thumbs-up to the running game. Sure, they're not great between the tackles but Wes Brown and the guys up front did a respectable job in the fourth quarter when you want to be able to grind the game out. Also, when your RBs are getting explosion plays on swing passes, that can have the same effect on opposing defenses as a running game.
John: Todd hit the nail on the head. This was by far their most complete game to date, and positive steps are always encouraging. The defense was strong overall, only giving up a few big plays against a fast-paced running game. From CJ Brown to Caleb Rowe, the quarterback play was solid, and the receivers got open in space. I want to see a bit more from the running game without Brown in, in case he is out for some time, but overall, hard not to be impressed with the progress.
Andrew K.: The improved play on the defensive side of the ball. Indiana had very few chunk plays and couldn't sustain drives against the Terps. The Terps' linebackers seemed much more engaged both in stopping the run and (especially) pass coverage. Indiana's offense is no slouch; limiting them to only 6 points after halftime (and that coming from a BS pass interference call) is impressive.
Noah: I agree with Todd. This was a complete game on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. They didn't turn the ball over and even with C.J. Brown coming out, the offense kept chugging right along. The schemes work and the staff has assembled a talented football team that can compete every week. Keep throwing bubble screens! It works! Just keep doing it!
Pete: For me, it was the offensive play-calling. Maryland was able to consistently get the ball in the hands of their playmakers for the first team this season -- Stefon Diggs and Deon Long each had more than 100 yards on the game.
Q. Mike Locksley seemed to have Indiana guessing for most of the afternoon, and he consistently found ways for Maryland to get the ball to its best players in space. How would you assess his work as a play-caller so far?
Todd: I'm going to take the coward's way out a bit here. First, I don't know what the coaches see in practice. Maybe he's more comfortable opening things up more because he's seeing better execution. Second, I don't know how much latitude the quarterbacks have to change the play call based on the reads they make before the snap. Maybe some of what we as fans interpret as a poor play call is really due to a poor read.
John: As Todd said, we aren't in the meetings and we aren't at practice, so we don't know, but overall, I would say he has had some cases where I am left scratching my head, and others where it is beautiful play-calling. But if we are going with the "what have you done for me lately" bit, I would say it has been good.
Andrew K.: I really like how he's mixing things up. Good run:pass balance, getting everyone involved keeps the opposing defenses on their heels. It's not like the Terps rely heavily on one player, like Indiana had to do with Tevin Coleman. Most importantly, Locks is giving all of our playmakers a chance to be ballers.
Noah: I've liked the balance he's shown and he has finally, FINALLY, decided to throw more screen passes to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. Brandon Ross had a screen pass TD for the second straight week. He got conservative in Syracuse but didn't take his foot off the gas last week. He did a great job and he has a chance to do some damage against Ohio State's suspect secondary.
Pete: Well I guess I kind of answered this in the first question, but Locksley's playcalling has improved each week of the season for me. This is a big test for him, as Ohio State has a ton of defensive talent but a significant weakness in the secondary. If Maryland can exploit that, they'll do well. If they can't, they won't.
Q. Who is Maryland's MVP through the first five weeks? (Note: "most valuable" doesn't mean "most outstanding," which might hurt Brad Craddock's chances, for instance.)
Todd: I actually had to ponder this one a while. My inclination is to say William Likely. I mean he's seventh in all-purpose yards as a cornerback and punt returner. He consistently makes big plays and is as close as Maryland has to a shutdown corner. I might have to go to Cole Farrand as my 1A, though. It's probably no accident that he played very little against Syracuse and they literally ran up big numbers on the Terps' defense and he was off the chart on Saturday and Maryland did about as well as one could expect against Indiana's much hyped running game.
John: I am going with Will Likely. He has been the most consistent and outstanding player in a group that has been thinned out with injuries. The fact he can get up and continue to bring it every single week in every facet is outstanding for a sophomore. Another candidate, which is obvious, is Stefon Diggs, who has shown he can do it all as a receiver. Possession underneath, deep passes and intermediate, he is becoming a more complete receiver.
Andrew K.: If Brad Craddock is not eligible, then I'd have to say Will Likely. He seems to supply an explosive play at crucial times.
Noah: Will Likely and it isn't close. He has been the most consistently great player on this team through five week. And he has been great.
Pete: I have to agree with Will Likely, but a special shout out goes to Cole Farrand as well.
Q. Other than C.J. Brown's health, what most concerns you heading into this game against Ohio State?
Todd: Can anyone say deja vu? Last season Maryland's off to a 4-0 start, beginning to get some national notice, and coming off a thorough destruction of what we thought at the time was a decent West Virginia team. I certainly remember what happened next. Now, Ohio State is not Florida State of last year and this game is at Byrd, not at Doak Campbell. I also appreciate that Cincinnati and Kent State are not the stiffest competition but the Buckeyes have put up 116 point in the last two weeks and their QB, J.T. Barrett, seems to have started figuring out the college game. They might not be FSU, but this is Urban Meyer and Ohio State, folks, and they're going to have athletes.
John: I don't have nearly as many concerns as I thought I would have. I truly believe Ohio State is a beatable team, but it will take a complete team effort to get the job done. My concern is consistency. Can this team add on to what was their best performance of the season on Saturday? Will they regress? If they regress even just a little, there is little chance they can win Saturday.
Andrew K.: I don't have a good feel for the potency of OSU's offense. They lit up the board against two unimpressive in-state schools. But against Virginia Tech at home and Navy in Annapolis they looked quite pedestrian. In fact, Navy led at halftime. On the other hand OSU won't be the only team at Byrd this Saturday with a porous pass defense.
Noah: Urban Meyer concerns me. He is one of the best coaches out there and he can recruit with the best of them. This is a very talented Buckeye team. My biggest concern is that during my five years of being a Maryland football fan, I have rarely if ever seen Maryland show up and win a big and meaningful game. This is not just another game this weekend. This is a game that says "We are prepared to contend for Big Ten titles every year." This is a game that says "We are a program that you should want to play for." The implications of this game across the conference and the country are very big. Can Maryland win with that pressure?
Pete: Joey Bosa. He's one of the top defensive linemen in the country, is a part of one of the top defensive lines in the country and Maryland's offensive line has struggled with consistency this season.
Q. OSU quarterback J.T. Barrett has stepped in for Braxton Miller and mostly done a nice job leading the Buckeyes. How do you think the Terps' secondary will perform against him?
Todd: Well, now. I think I hinted at that in my previous answers. I have a high level of confidence in Likely. Jeremiah Johnson, on the other hand, is going to need to step up his game.
John: Very little confidence in anyone outside of Sean Davis and Will Likely at this point, but I am open to being proven wrong.
Andrew K. : That's the $64,000 question. Unlike my colleagues at TT I think that Jeremiah Johnson is our best player in the secondary against the pass. Likely has progressed during the first four games but opponents seem to want to test him. Their mistake. The problem lies in the pass play of our safeties. Davis and Nixon need to communicate better and keep to their assignments.
Noah: Nice to finally find someone that agrees with me that Johnson is one of our best players when defending the pass. I think that the secondary will do enough. I expect at least one interception, but I'm also expecting them to give up a big play or two. Barrett doesn't make me quake in my boots. The Terps are lucky that the only truly great quarterback they've played was Trickett and the only ones they have left are Hackenberg and Cook.
Pete: I think they'll perform quite well against the pass, but Maryland may struggle against Ohio State's newfound power running game.
Q. Is anyone willing to pick the Maryland upset?
Todd: Well, everyone knows my stance on this.
John: I am, but it isn't confidently. I'll go Maryland 34, Ohio State 31. Someone has to be bold here.
Andrew K.: As much as I'd like to, I think Maryland will have to play error-free ball and hang a few turnovers on OSU. This game will turn out to be the high-scoring affair that many of us thought would occur last week. OSU 38 Maryland 34.
Noah: Hell yeah I am! Go back and look at our first roundtable. I predicted that Maryland and Ohio State would both come into this game undefeated. I was wrong on that one. However, I predicted that Maryland would win this game. I am sticking with that prediction. Maryland wins 34-24.
Pete: Nope! Ohio State 34, Maryland 20.