COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — No. 10 Ohio State hits the road on Saturday for the final time of the 2018 regular season as they get set to face a Maryland team going through some tumultuous times.
The Buckeyes seem to be in a different groove this past week after a 20-point road win over a Top-20 Michigan State team where the run game and defense both excelled, two areas where Ohio State has struggled all season long.
“I’ll tell you what, last week was a big win,” said Urban Meyer. “That locker room was the way it’s supposed to be.”
It may seem like it’s been a tumultuous season for the Buckeyes, but if you were to tell Ohio State fans before the season that they’d be 9-1 with a chance to still win a Big Ten Championship and go to the College Football Playoff, I think it’s fair to say a lot of fans would be happy about that.
And that’s exactly where Ohio State is at: Big Ten and CFP aspirations still alive and they’re starting to play their best football at the end of the season.
That’s just what Ohio State needs as after this game, the Buckeyes head back home for The Game, but they know they have to get through Maryland first to keep all of those championship hopes alive.
Ohio State Breakdown
The big storyline for Ohio State heading into this game is going to be quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
A native of Potomac, Maryland, the redshirt sophomore will have a chance to make history in his home state as he stands just 51 yards away from breaking Ohio State’s single-season record for passing yards (3,330 yards by Joe Germaine in 1998) and only three touchdowns away from shattering J.T. Barrett’s single-season record for touchdowns (35) that he set last season.
“Being so close to all these records is a blessing from God,” said Haskins earlier this week. “The fact that I’m able to go compete for these records is just a testament to the offensive coaches and how great they are at game-planning for us.”
Haskins also said he’s looking forward to potentially breaking those records in front of his family and once again calls it a blessing.
Haskins should easily break the passing yards record against the Terrapins, but breaking the single-season passing touchdowns record may be a bit harder as Haskins hasn’t thrown for more than two touchdowns in the past three games and he’ll need three on Saturday if he wants to break the record in his home state of Maryland.
Another big storyline at quarterback is the possible emergence of Tate Martell, who was brought in on a couple of plays against Michigan State in red zone and short yardage situations, where Ohio State has struggled mightily this season. With Martell in the game, that could add a whole new dynamic to the Buckeye offense that could be the key to a championship.
As far as the rest of the offense for Ohio State, the Buckeyes have had great success in the run game the past two weeks after struggling heavily in that area for most of the season.
After J.K. Dobbins’ 163 yards and three touchdowns vs. Nebraska and Mike Weber’s 104 yards and touchdown against the No. 1 run defense in the country Michigan State, Ohio State has reestablished the run game at the perfect time.
Same goes for Ohio State’s defense, who held the previously No. 18-ranked Spartans to just six points on the road this past Saturday as the emergence of Brendon White and improved linebacker play has gotten Ohio State back on the right track just in time for the coming weeks of the end of the season.
Speaking of the coming weeks, it’s safe to say that everyone who is in and follows this program knows what game is next week, but Ohio State players and coaching staff know that they have to get through this game with Maryland before they can stop thinking about the No. 4-ranked Wolverines.
“I just think that there’s too much at stake for all that, and to fall into something like that, I think would be crazy,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Day about possibly looking ahead to Michigan. “At a place like Ohio State, you can’t afford to take a deep breath anywhere on the schedule.”
And Day is absolutely right. After all, if Ohio State wants to keep their hopes of a Big Ten Championship – and by extension, the College Football Playoff – alive, they have to beat the Terrapins on Saturday. If they were to lose in College Park, then Michigan would clinch the Big Ten East before the two teams even face off in The Game and Ohio State’s conference and national title hopes will be destroyed.
All week long, the message at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center was simple: “Beat Maryland”. And that’s all the Buckeyes will be thinking about on Saturday when they take the field in College Park.
The only team in the country that might have a more controversial off-the-field issue this season than Ohio State is Maryland, who fired their head coach D.J. Durkin earlier this month after a player by the name of Jordan McNair died due to extreme practices under Durkin.
Maryland has still managed to win half of their games this season, despite all the drama with their now ex-coach and even upset a Top-25 Texas team earlier this season.
Despite their struggles all season long and their 5-5 record, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is not taking the Terrapins lightly.
“This is as talented a team as we’ve faced this year, that we’re getting ready to face, and you can see that on video tape,” said Meyer of Maryland.
However, I’m not so certain the stats agree with Urban. Maryland is only scoring 28.8 points per game and they’re giving up 25.4 points per game.
Maryland’s offense took a big blow in their loss to Indiana last week as well as starting quarterback Kasim Hill will miss the remainder of the 2018 season due to an ACL injury he suffered in the game.
Also, the Terps may be without the services of their best running back Ty Johnson on Saturday as he has been listed as a game-time decision, which would highly impact Maryland’s Top-20 rushing game.
Maryland’s only hope against Ohio State is their defense, which is only surrendering 343.2 yards per game, good for the 29th best total defense in the country. The Terrapins also lead the nation in interceptions with 17. Against an offense like Ohio State that has relied heavily on the passing game, that could be an area where the Terps take advantage.
Ohio State, as always, is going to get every team’s best shot, and that’s exactly what Maryland is going to give them. The Terrapins may score some points early against the Buckeyes, but Ohio State’s pure talent and depth will eventually wear them out. Expect Dwayne Haskins to break both of the aforementioned records against the Terps on Saturday.
Score Prediction: 42-14 Ohio State
Bold Prediction: Tate Martell will be responsible for at least two touchdowns in Ohio State’s victory as he will start assuming a role in the red zone and short yardage situations.
No. 10 Ohio State and Maryland will kick off this Saturday, November 17th at noon ET in College Park, Maryland. The game will be televised on ABC.
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