WHO: Ohio State Buckeyes @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Men's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Ludwig Field, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
WHEN: Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm Eastern
WATCH: In person
Take a look at the Big Ten men's soccer standings and I think you might agree that it's a jumble out there. Two conference games Saturday night may sharpen the picture but will not clear it. In the later game, the Indiana Hoosiers can keep themselves in contention for the conference title by defeating the winless Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
The stakes in College Park are a bit higher and more complicated. Currently, Ohio State has 12 points in the standings and sole possession of second place. Michigan State is third with 11 points and Maryland and Indiana are tied for fourth with ten. Maryland must win in order to look at their conference title hopes and say:
A loss or a tie will eliminate Maryland from the title race. Mathematically, Ohio State can stay alive with a tie. A loss to the Terps would end their hopes.
The picture can sharpen further on Sunday when Penn State visits Northwestern and Michigan State hosts Michigan. With a win over the Wildcats, Penn State ends any discussion and joins their women's team as conference champions. A Northwestern win keeps their slim chances as well as those of the winner of Saturday's game in College Park out of the coroner's laboratory. A Michigan win in East Lansing would drive a stake through the heart of Michigan State's title dreams regardless of the outcome of Penn State's game.
What's a Buckeye?
Intrinsically, there's nothing frightening about a buckeye. Buckeye can refer to several species of trees in the genus Aesculus - the most commonly known of which is the horse chestnut. It's the state tree of Ohio and the nickname for the state and its residents. Here's what Ohio State's athletic site has to say on the matter:
A small, shiny, dark brown nut with a light tan patch that comes from the official state tree of Ohio, the buckeye tree.
According to folklore, the Buckeye resembles the eye of a deer and carrying one brings good luck. "Buckeyes" has been the official Ohio State nickname since 1950, but it had been in common use for many years before.
The first recorded use of the term Buckeye to refer to a resident of the area was in 1788, some 15 years before Ohio became a state. Col. Ebenezer Sproat, a 6'4" man of large girth and swashbuckling mannerisms, led the legal delegation at the first court session of the Northwest Territory in Marietta. The Indians in attendance greeted him with shouts of "Hetuck, Hetuck" (the Indian word for buckeye), it is said because they were impressed by his stature and manner. He proudly carried the Buckeye nickname for the rest of his life and it gradually spread to his companions and to other local settlers. By the 1830s, writers were commonly referring to locals as "Buckeyes."
Regarding Brutus Buckeye, we have this from the Ohio State University Library:
In 1965 Brutus Buckeye hit the scene when student Ray Bourhis, along with other members of the student organization Ohio Staters Inc., convinced the OSU athletic council of the idea of a Buckeye as Ohio State's mascot. At the time, other schools used animals for their mascots and actually had the animals present at the games. Bourhis thought the only animal fitting for Ohio was the buck deer, but bringing an actual buck to games would have been virtually impossible. He therefore chose a buckeye to serve as the Ohio State mascot. The buckeye was later named Brutus in an all-campus naming contest and began his career as a large fiberglass shell which weighed forty pounds.
Consider me nutty, but it's time to leaf the subject and move on.
Buckeyes on the pitch
Though Ohio State has had a respectable program in this century with all eight of their NCAA Tournament appearances coming since 2000, the 2013 season was not one of them. The Buckeyes finished with an overall record of 5-8-4 and were 1-3-2 in conference play. Their season ended with a loss to Michigan State in the first round of the B1G Tournament.
The current season has been a turnaround for the Buckeyes. With two games remaining in the regular season, Ohio State has exceeded their win totals from 2013. They are 7-5-4 and their 4-2 record in conference play puts them in second place and with a mathematical possibility of winning the conference championship.
Averaging 1.38 goals per game, Ohio State is the fourth most potent offense in the Big Ten but the Buckeyes score a B1G leading 2.00 goals per game in conference play. Their defense, while tied for fifth in the conference with Maryland with a 0.94 goals against average, Will Likely be tested by a suddenly potent Maryland attack that now leads the B1G in overall scoring. (The Terps are one goal behind the Buckeyes in conference only scoring.) Ten of the fifteen goals the Buckeyes have conceded have come in the second half of games.
In the latest RPI, OSU is ranked 22nd putting them one spot above the Terps. The Buckeyes are undefeated in their last four games having won three straight before playing to a 1-1 tie with Kentucky in their last outing.
Players to Watch
Yianni Sarris, #6, senior, midfielder. Sarris is in his third season with the Buckeyes after spending his freshman year at Florida Gulf Coast University. After registering just one goal and one assist last season, Sarris has come on to lead Ohio State in scoring in 2014 with five goals and four assists.
Liam Doyle, #5, junior, defender. Another transfer, Doyle is in his first season with OSU after starting his college at Cincinnati State where he was named a National Junior College Athletic Association All-American. In addition to solidifying the Buckeyes' defense, Doyle has used his 6'4" frame to knock home five goals tying Sarris for the team lead in that category.
Saturday's game will be the third all-time meeting between the schools. The Terrapins have won both prior encounters the most recent of which was a 3-0 Maryland win when Ohio State visited College Park in 2003.
Saturday's game is a must win for Maryland if they are to retain any hope of capturing the Big Ten Conference Championship. Even with a win the Terps will still need help in several other games to stay alive in that chase. Ohio State is in a slightly better position given that a tie will suffice for them. Whose shell will crack? The Buckeye nut or the Terrapin? By the end of Saturday's game, one team will be able to sing
and one team won't.