(4) Ohio State Buckeyes 4-0 (1-0) v. Maryland Terrapins 5-0 (2-0)
Big Ten smash-mouth football is back, and it’s “Ohio Against the World,” as always. The Buckeyes are finally back in the saddle after what feels like 84 years of waiting after the tumultuous Notre Dame game. The nail-biting finish two weeks ago against the Irish left the Buckeyes, fans, and coaches with their adrenaline pumping and ready to take on anyone in their path. It’s a bad week to be a Terrapin.
Ohio State should be fresh, healed-up, and ready to roll as the University of Maryland comes to Columbus with a chip on its shoulders. The Terrapins are 5-0 for the first time since their ACC championship-winning season in 2001. They are on a seven-game winning streak dating back to last season and have won 15 of their previous 20 games. Even with their recent success, Maryland sits unranked and is angry about it.
The Terrapins enter this game, never having beaten the Buckeyes. The closest they’ve come was a barn burner back in 2018, losing by a point to a Buckeye team that, on paper, should have easily defeated them. Maryland has come up short in eight tries, as the Bucks tend to dominate each matchup since the Terrapins entered the Big Ten conference. But these Terrapins look different. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has amassed over 1,400 yards in passing, accompanied by 13 touchdown passes with only three interceptions through five games. They have scored more than 30 points in each game, with two of their best wins thus far coming against Big Ten opponents (of course, that win against Michigan State may not be as impressive considering everything going on in East Lansing).
Comparing like-wins, the Buckeyes and Terrapins both beat the Indiana Hoosiers. Maryland racked up 44 points while giving up 17. On the other hand, Ohio State only scored 23 to Indiana’s three points. Maryland appears to score points in bunches, but Ohio State’s defense looks more stout and capable of holding opponents down.
Ohio State has been known to fall flat in perceived “easy wins”; thus, the term “trap game” gets thrown around quite a bit. Saturday’s matchup is one of the few games I would consider a trap for the Buckeyes this season. The media will tout Ohio State never having lost to the Terrapins, and the fact that the game is in the Shoe should mean an easy win, and in that very moment, it becomes a challenge for the Buckeyes.
Date: Saturday, 10/7/23
Time: Noon, Eastern
Venue: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio (Capacity: 102,780)
Series: Ohio State leads 8-0
Last Meeting: Ohio State over Maryland 43-30 (2022)
What to Watch For:
I would be surprised to see Ryan Day return to his conservative play-calling shell. It took fans four weeks of football before the angry Ryan Day fans came to love to show up with coaching great Lou Holtz giving him some bulletin board material. The Buckeyes needed that win against Notre Dame. It gave everyone in that locker room a bit of confidence and that swagger that usually comes with Ohio State football. I expect that confidence to spill over into this game, as Ryan Day has little tolerance for anyone besmirching his team. Quarterback Kyle McCord may finally be ready to take that next step. He will still make some odd choices as he develops at his position, but what remains clear is his toughness and ability to lead the Buckeye offense to success. The defense continues to impress quietly game after game. They have held all opponents to 34 points this season. Jim Knowles has finally figured out that he has all the weapons he could ever want. His schemes rely less on outsmarting offenses and more on putting his athletes in the right spot and letting them do the dirty work. Defense wins championships, and the Silver Bullets will continue to put the Bucks in the best possible place.
There’s nothing more exciting than watching a team with a chip on their shoulder. The Terrapins don’t need any more motivation, as they have been left out of the top 25 in favor of an LSU team with multiple losses. Head coach Mike Locksley has been building this program up since 2019; each year, they seem to get better and better. One of the most intriguing aspects is that Locksley is a defensive-minded coach, yet his offense has been on a tear through the first five weeks. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is another veteran, like Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman, who can trouble the Buckeyes. The Terrapin defense will face their toughest test of the season, considering the countless weapons and schemes the Bucks can throw at a team. Ultimately, it will be up to the Terrapin defense not to get overwhelmed if they hope to remain competitive in this game.
Expect the Buckeyes to come out and punish the Terrapin offense with a robust defensive assault. The front seven should be able to push Maryland’s speed to the perimeter, where the aggressive nature of Jim Knowles’ schemes will contain and force some mistakes. The Bucks offense will look to capitalize on the toughness and confidence they found in South Bend a couple of weeks ago while feeding off the frenzied crowd in Columbus and scoring points by the handful; Ohio State wins this one 31-17.
(Photo by Lauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images)