With just two weeks to go in the regular season, Maryland football has its toughest test of the season when No. 2 Ohio State comes to College Park on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.
After a 6-2 start, the Terps’ season is derailing quickly with a tough November stretch. Maryland is in the midst of a two-game losing streak against Wisconsin and Penn State, both of which were ugly, embarrassing losses.
Now, the Terps welcome in the second-best offense in the country to SECU Stadium. If Maryland can somehow win, it would cause shockwaves across the college football world.
Ohio State is favored by 27.5 and the over/under is 63.5, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten)
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the pinnacle of the Big Ten Conference. They consistently compete for the Big Ten championship and national championships — they are the standard of the conference. They are led by head coach Ryan Day, but the Buckeyes’ recent dominance started when Urban Meyer was the head coach and Day was the offensive coordinator.
Since Day took over in Dec. 2018, he has sustained excellence in Columbus. He has lost just four games in his four years — only one against a Big Ten opponent. He has catapulted his team to two Big Ten championships and is looking for his third this season with his team undefeated.
Assuming Ohio State handles Maryland, the Buckeyes’ season will come down to a game against undefeated Michigan with a trip to the Big Ten championship on the line.
“What a great opportunity to play a top-two team, for me probably the number one team in the country here at home with nothing to lose,” Maryland head coach Mike Locksley said.
Players to know
C.J. Stroud, junior quarterback, No. 7 — Stroud is the undisputed best quarterback in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country as a Heisman candidate. It’s hard to find any flaw in his game, which will make him an eventual top pick in the NFL Draft. He has 2,750 passing yards this season to go along with 34 touchdowns and four interceptions. Against Maryland last year, he had over 400 passing yards and threw for five touchdowns en route to a 66-17 blowout.
“We’re going to have to do some things to try to affect this quarterback, because when they’ve struggled, it’s because people have gotten to the quarterback and affected him,” Locksley said.
Marvin Harrison Jr., sophomore wide receiver, No. 18 — Harrison Jr. is an absolute superstar receiver at the collegiate level and projects to be the same in the NFL as well. He is undoubtedly Stroud’s top target with 60 receptions for 969 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. While Maryland has some worthy cornerbacks, it will be the toughest quarterback-wide receiver duo the Terps will face all season.
Miyan Williams, junior running back, No. 3 — While Ohio State’s passing attack is the go-to for its prolific offense, the Buckeyes also have a dependable running game, recently led by Miyan Williams. He has 800 rushing yards this season and is averaging 6.7 yards per carry to go along with 13 touchdowns. Ohio State’s running back room also relies on TreVeyon Henderson for serious production.
Tommy Eichenberg, senior linebacker, No. 35 — Eichenberg is a hawk for this Ohio State defense. While the offense steals the headlines, the Buckeyes’ defense is formidable and among the nation’s best. Eichenberg leads the team in tackles with 92, 30 more than the second-leading tackler. He also has two and a half sacks on the year and an interception. Maryland’s offense will have to account for him at all times.
Scoring. There’s no other way to put it other than Ohio State can flat out score, and will score often. Ohio State has the second-best offense in the nation, behind only Tennessee. It averages 46.8 points per game and has an unlimited arsenal of weapons to unleash on any opponent. Given Maryland’s recent defensive woes, it will likely be a long day for Maryland’s defense in College Park.
Rushing defense. It’s hard to find a true weakness for the No. 2 team in the country and one of the favorites to win the national title, but if there is one area Ohio State is not elite in it’s rush defense. Ohio State allows over 110 rushing yards per game, which ranks in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland make this game competitive? Winning this game is about as long of a shot for Maryland as is possible. The best Maryland fans can hope for is a competitive competition on Saturday afternoon. In its last two weeks against more talented and physically dominant opponents, Maryland failed to even compete. Ohio State is the best team on this rough three-game stretch Maryland wraps up this weekend, so it would be a surprise to many, but an encouraging sign if Maryland keeps it close and competes at a high level.
2. Will the run defense improve? Anyone who has watched a minute of the past two games has been exposed to some horrific run defense by Maryland. Both Wisconsin and Penn State got whatever they wanted in the ground game, which left the Terps’ defense on the field for extended periods of time. While Ohio State's strength is its passing attack, it will surely exploit Maryland’s non-existent run defense, which will need to improve if the Terps are going to compete.
3. Will Tagovailoa bounce back? For the first time in his career, Tagovailoa was held to under 100 passing yards in back-to-back games. Tagovailoa is undoubtedly a special talent, and he's shown that with the myriad of records he's broken in a Maryland uniform. But against the best competition, Tagovailoa has struggled throughout his career. He has another opportunity to change that narrative against Ohio State this weekend. It’s also important to note that since Tagovailoa returned from injury, he has not looked like the same player. While he says he feels good, there’s a chance it’s still impacting his play.
“Balance isn’t necessarily throwing it for a certain amount of yards or running it for a certain amount, it’s being able to do both when you need to,” Locksley said.