The Buckeyes complete their “new guy” two-step this weekend with Maryland coming to town. The two teams did not play last season, the first time in the long (okay, six games) history of this series as Jim Delany brought Rutgers and Maryland into the fold for the start of the 2014 season.
Much like the Rutgers series, the Buckeyes have not dropped a game, even if the 2018 game was about as dicey as you could get, Ohio State needing to get the game to overtime and survive a missed two-point conversion try that would have given the Terps the win in the bottom of the first overtime.
Ohio State came back in 2019 and answered with a resounding 73-14 win in Columbus, a contest that was no contest as the Buckeyes opened up a 52-0 lead in the 3rd quarter and put up 21 points in the first, second and fourth quarters.
Now we focus on the 2021 season, a year that started off well for Maryland, a 4-0 start, optimism around College Park (Md.) and then Iowa came to town and knocked the Terps back into reality.
Is this a case of Maryland being closer to the team that Iowa dismantled or was that game more of an outlier? We wonder the same thing so we are diving in deeper, going to the Tale of the Tape and trying to put the Terps in focus.
|Rush Offense||217.2 YPG||23rd||Rush Defense||118.4 YPG||37th|
|Pass Offense||336.2 YPG||2nd||Pass Eff. Defense||114.09||26th|
|Scoring Offense||45.0 PPG||4th||Scoring Defense||21.6 PPG||46th|
Ohio State QB/WR/TE vs. Maryland Defensive Backs
CJ Stroud plus a reported healthy (healthier) shoulder equals a pretty exciting passing attack for the Buckeyes. Okay, it was only Rutgers. After this week will we be saying that it was only Maryland? At some point these games have to mean something, don’t they? Stroud threw for 330 yards on 17-23 passing for five touchdowns against the Scarlet Knights, got off to a strong first quarter and of the six incompletions, it would be safe to say most were closer to being drops than Stroud missing his target, a major step forward from his previous three starts. Chris Olave was back in a big way, five catches for 119 yards and a pair of scores while Garrett Wilson remained consistent in this one with a score of his own. The Buckeyes even got the tight end(s) involved with Jeremy Ruckert hauling in a score along with tight end/fullback Mitch Rossi scoring his first points of his career. Over the course of this series, the Buckeyes have been great with the pass, averaging 323.2 yards per game on 70.8-percent completions with 3.2 touchdowns per game via the pass over the past six games. Ohio State has thrown for at least three touchdowns in every game of this series outside of 2015, when the Buckeyes were held to just two, but that year the Buckeyes rushed for five with JT Barrett taking it in three times and Zeke Elliott twice.
Maryland’s pass defensive numbers are skewed by facing some pretty bad passing teams so far this season with West Virginia’s No. 42 passing offense topping the list with the other three Division I-FBS teams ranking 96th or lower in the passing charts. Even Howard, an FCS team is 45th in throwing the ball. WVU threw the ball okay for yardage (280 yards) but two interceptions would lead to the eventual six-point loss in the game. Over the course of Maryland’s four wins, no team would throw for more than one passing touchdown in each game but Iowa bucked that trend, throwing for three on a strong 23-38, 283 yards passing day for the Hawkeyes, a team that has averaged just 194 passing yards a game over the course of its season. Nick Cross is the most familiar name in the secondary at safety, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound safety was a well-known recruit and is going into his 14th start for the Terps but Jordan Mosley leads the team in starts on that side of the ball with 17, including starting in the last 10 games.
Ohio State Running Backs vs. Maryland Linebackers
Over the past three games of this series, the Buckeyes have attempted 50 or more runs in each game and the overall series shows that Ohio State has been much more apt to run, 51 carries per game over the six-game series to 34 pass attempts. The numbers show a rushing offense that has met little resistance, 275.2 yards per game and 4.5 touchdowns per game on the ground. Ohio State rushed for 383 yards and six scores in the 2019 game, but you are bound to do that when you break the 70-point mark in a game. Will this be the game where we see a bigger diet of TreVeyon Henderson? It is a long season and the Buckeyes have seemed more than content in not overusing their freshman back, a player who did not play football last season as a senior in high school. Miyan Williams was out last week and in his absence, Marcus Crowley looked good as both a run and catch option. The Buckeyes are just still very deep at the position and have not had to ride a hot hand with any great frequency. With a lot of things to still work on this season, it is hard to predict what Ryan Day and Kevin Wilson have in store if things go according to plan. If things get off plan? That is a completely different story, but still unknown.
We were surprised in going through Maryland’s opponents numbers to see that Kent State has the best rushing offense of any team that the Terps have faced and as the No. 11 rushing offense, it is not a case of them facing a bunch of tomato cans and Kent State happens to be the least tomato-ey. Now, the rest of the opponents, in terms of running the ball are marginal at best, Illinois is No. 40 and then you have Iowa at No. 98 and WVU at a dismal No. 111. The highly-rated Kent State offense did not find the end zone on the ground but Iowa did to the tune of three scores and even Illinois and WVU did a pair of times. No team has rushed for more than 150 yards against Maryland, but when the three Power Five teams you have gone against have averaged better than two scores on the ground, it shows that relying on rushing yardage as a metric is deceptive as games are won and lost with points, not yards. The Terps are not a team with a lot of known names on the defensive side of the ball. Ruben Hyppolite is a solid performer and the MLB position even if he does not fit the bill of a traditional Mike. The linebackers are young, not a senior to be found on the two-deep at the position with sophomores dominating the page. There are less than 10 combined starts at linebacker (based on an -or- designation) so it is a unit that has played in very few big games and while most might not consider this a big game with a 21-point spread, it is what it is.
Ohio State Offensive Line vs. Maryland Defensive Line
The rich get richer and Ohio State strangely has the luxury of rolling players in and out from series to series on the offensive line. We saw the return of Thayer Munford to the field on Saturday against Rutgers and that had the Buckeyes moving guards around and even moving Nick Petit-Frere back to right tackle for a moment or three in the game against the Scarlet Knights. The line play has not been ‘perfect’ if you view things as a coach, a penalty here, a missed assignment there, but the line play has been very good as of late but there is always room for improvement. When there are not a lot of things to say about the offensive line, take that as a good thing because they generally are only noticed when things are going wrong.
While they are not all credited to the defensive line, the Terps do create pressure based on the 18 sacks recorded on the year. Maryland sacked Kent State six times, Illinois five times, WVU three times and it is something to be aware of, granted none of those teams have a line like Ohio State’s or an offense like Ohio State’s. Sam Okuayinonu and Durrell Nchami have combined for eight sacks for the Terps but that means that 10 sacks have been spread amongst the rest of the team, showing that there is not going to be a chance to load up on just one player. The Terps are huge on the interior line in terms of space eaters with Ami Finau checking in a 320-pounds and at the defensive tackle spot, we could see 310-pound Mosiah Nasili-Kite or they could go small with 295-pound Greg Rose. As a unit, the front seven for the Terps can do a few things but the stats show that Maryland has not really faced any sort of a dynamic offense and if the offense gets sloppy and gives Ohio State short fields the way things unfolded against Iowa, it is going to be the longest of days.
|Rush Defense||146.4 YPG||77th||Rush Offense||152.2 YPG||77th|
|Pass Eff. Defense||120.21||39th||Pass Offense||317.4 YPG||13th|
|Scoring Defense||21.2 PPG||42nd||Scoring Offense||32.6 PPG||T-45th|
Ohio State Defensive Backs vs. Maryland QB/WR/TE
We can’t talk about how Maryland has and has not faced this or that without turning the tables around and Ohio State has not really faced a passing offense like Maryland this season with the Terps coming in at No. 13 in the nation. The Buckeyes have faced one other top-30 passing offense, Tulsa checking in at No. 24. Ohio State may have helped inflate those numbers by giving up 428 yards to the Golden Hurricane. Outside of that, Ohio State’s opponents all rank in the bottom-60 nationally in throwing the ball with Minnesota checking in as the worst, No. 123 out of 130 teams. To Ohio State’s credit however, the last two games have been much cleaner against the pass, 153 yards given up to Akron and 235 to Rutgers. Denzel Burke had one of three Ohio State interceptions in the game on Saturday and took it back for a defensive touchdown. The Buckeyes still seem to be trying to find the best pieces to have out there and players like Marcus Williamson, after a slow start to the season, are starting to see more time. This is going to be a very different game for the Ohio State defense with Saturday’s game shaping up to be one of the biggest passing tests of the year, coupled with a quarterback who can take off and run. Ohio State will face other passing teams with Penn State and Purdue ranking in the top-30, but there is just something about this Maryland attack that is different than the rest and will probably cause some extra hours spent at the WHAC by the Ohio State defensive coaches.
We normally start by talking about the quarterback but the Terps will be without a key piece for the remainder of the season at receiver with the injury to Dontay Demus, who was lost during the Iowa game to a gruesome leg injury. Demus led the Terps with 507 receiving yards through four-plus games and 28 receptions. He three touchdown receptions were tied for second on the team, only trailing Rakim Jarrett, who will now be looked at as a main weapon as he was second on the team with 21 catches for 276 yards and a team-high four touchdown grabs. We now can focus on the quarterback position with Taulia Tagovailoa, a player that the Buckeyes have not seen yet with the cancellation of the 2020 game. Tua’s little brother has 12 touchdowns but six picks, but five of those game against Iowa in a game where nothing went right. He is completing better than 72-percent of his throws and is averaging just shy of 300 yards per game throwing the ball. It should come as no shock that Iowa is far-and-away the best pass defense that Maryland has faced this season, and when it comes to yardage, the Terps have not faced anyone better than 72nd in the nation against the pass prior, WVU coming in at No. 73 and then both Illinois and Kent State ranking in the bottom-30 nationally. When it comes to pass efficiency defense, Kent State ranks better, at No. 43, but the Terps still managed to throw for 384 yards and three scores in that game. Throwing the ball in this series between Ohio State and the Terps has not been a strong suit through the years with Maryland averaging 10-23 (41.3-percent) for 133.2 yards per game. Maryland has four passing touchdowns over the course of six previous games and threw for 13 yards in 2017 against Ohio State. Of course those who study history remember that Maryland can’t keep quarterbacks healthy and some of the opposing QBs in this series have quite forgettable names and outings, we are expecting more success in this game and quite possibly the second-ever time that Maryland breaks 200 passing yards against Ohio State (2014 being the first and only).
Ohio State Linebackers vs. Maryland Running Backs
This section will either be read closer than any other section of the piece of skipped the most as fans have made their displeasure with the position well-known and we have kind of run out of things to say. There is not a lot of depth at the spot with two transfers out, the Buckeyes were even thinner last week with the game-time decision not to go forward with Palaie Gaoteote and just not a clear direction as to who the best two or three backers are. So instead of talking at Jimmy and Joe’s we will talk more about how Ohio State has fared against the run this season and since the Oregon loss, things have been good with three straight games of not allowing a rushing touchdown, teams have averaged fewer than 87 yards per game and it just feels as if the Buckeyes are making the right adjustments. Granted, the trio of Tulsa, Akron and Rutgers don’t conjure images of power running games. But neither does Maryland, outside of 2018 when for whatever reason the Buckeyes could not make the right adjustments against Anthony McFarland as he went off for a record-setting day against the Buckeyes. Now, the Buckeye still need to figure out what puts them in the best position at this position, Steele Chambers has really emerged as a viable candidate for more playing time but with the open week after this game, this will be a final chance to tinker within gameplay before Indiana in a couple of weeks as the opponents get more difficult.
Anthony McFarland is not walking through that door, but if we are being honest, did anyone know who he was before he ripped off a million yards against the Buckeyes? Tayon Fleet-Davis is the No. 1 back and has 331 yards on 47 carries and four of the Maryland seven rushing touchdowns on the year. For all the talk of Tagovailoa being this huge runner, he only has 22 credited attempts and is averaging 11.4 yards per game (sack adjusted) on the ground and has no touchdowns. We would not be shocked to see more designed Q runs to try and stress the Buckeye defense. 34.2-percent of the Maryland yardage comes by way of the run as well as 35-percent of the offensive scores, so this is a pass-first team, at least to date. Maryland through the years has not been able to run on Ohio State outside of the 339 yards in 2018 and a 215-yard game in 2015. The other four games have seen the Terps run for fewer than 70 yards per game. Even factoring in those big games, over the previous six contests, Maryland is averaging 38 carries per game for 135.5 yards and two scores, and that is with eight of the 12 scores taking place over two games. Just to further evidence how the Maryland rush offense has struggled this season, four of the seven touchdowns scored this season on the ground were against I-FCS foe Howard and two were against Group of Five Kent State. So in three games against Power Five foes, Maryland has scored one rushing touchdown, against Illinois.
Ohio State Defensive Line vs. Maryland Offensive Line
Ohio State’s interior defensive line continues to improve with young players like Tyleik Williams pushing for more playing time as the inside has outplayed the outside by all accounts. The Buckeyes have been dealing with some missing players on the edge and it remains to be seen how many might be back this week with the open week just a week way, giving players some extra time to ‘get right’ before the end of October and games against Indiana, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan still on the upcoming schedule. It is going to be critical that Ohio State does not go out there and play hero-ball against Maryland with the threat of the QB run and we have seen what happens when the Buckeyes lose contain this season. It would do wonders for players like Zach Harrison to go into the open week with some extra confidence in a game like this but young guys like J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer are pushing for more playing time as well and guys have to make the most of the reps that they are getting.
Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan is the old man of the group with 20 starts under his belt as the rest of the line is made up of players who have anywhere from five to 11 starts on the line. Duncan is a big guy at 6-foot-6, 320-pounds while Spencer Anderson holds down the right tackle spot at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds. Maryland does not give up sacks, just six on the year, whether that is a result of a strong line or a mobile quarterback, that debate will rage on. Maryland does give up tackles for loss however and an ineffective running game will lead to a lot of that. So, this is a much better unit at pass pro than run blocking and the Buckeyes should be able to neutralize the run if they play sound football.
|Net Punt||42.57 YPP||19th||40.19 YPP||59th|
|Punt Return||1.62 YPR||122nd||4.77 YPR||99th|
|Kickoff Return||22.25 YPR||48th||16.77 YPR||108th|
|FG Percentage||5-5 (100%)||N/A||8-11 (72.7%)||N/A|
Maryland’s special teams have not been all that special to this point of the season and with the loss of Demus, Maryland loses one of its co-starters at kick returner. All things being equal, just play cleanly in the special teams and don’t put your team in a bad spot, either on offense or defense. Maryland is 7-8 between two kickers from inside of 40 when it comes to field goals but just 1-3 from 40 and out. The Buckeyes on the other hand have yet to find any success at punt return but does that matter when your team is boasting the No. 1 total offense and No. 3 scoring offense in the nation? Again, back to not making mistakes, and the Buckeyes have not. Noah Ruggles has been a tremendous addition to the team by way of the transfer portal from North Carolina as he has been clean in his kicking duties while “freshman” Jesse Mirco has been great in punting situations for the Buckeyes.