Ohio State football: Maryland next test for revamped Buckeyes’ defense

COLUMBUS -- Ohio State hosts Maryland at Ohio Stadium on Saturday in what has the makings of a potential trap game.

The Terrapins are looking to bounce back from a humbling 51-14 home loss to Iowa in which a few things went wrong early and snowballed.

Meanwhile, seventh-ranked Ohio State is coming off its best all-around performance of the year — a 52-13 whipping of Rutgers — and the Buckeyes will get a week off after they are done with Maryland.

Here are five things to know about the game:

1. All signs point to this being a significant test for the revamped Ohio State defense.

After allowing over 500 yards in back-to-back games, the Buckeyes allowed 555 yards combined the past two weeks.

Maryland promises to be a much bigger challenge than Akron or Rutgers, though.

That starts with quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa. The younger brother of former Alabama star Tua leads the Big Ten in passing yards (1,497) and is Pro Football Focus’ 11th-rated passer in the country even after a disastrous five-interception game against the Hawkeyes.

“He’s played pretty good football for us up until that game,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley told reporters this week, “and as I look back on it that game I’m gonna put as an anomaly. It’s not the standard. It’s not what we’ve seen. What I would hope to see Taulia do are the things I saw him do before Week 5 where he took great care of the football.”

Tagovailoa’s top target, Dontay Demus, suffered a season-ending injury last week, but Rakim Jarrett is a five-star talent who figures to be next in line at receiver for the Terps, who also have a dangerous running back duo in Tayon Fleet-Davis and Isaiah Jacobs.

Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan is the only Maryland lineman to receive a good blocking grade overall from PFF so far.

2. The Terrapins also have a disruptive defense.

Maryland leads the Big Ten in sacks with 18 and is fourth in tackles for loss with 36.

Sam Okuayinonu is second in the conference with five sacks and tied for the Big Ten lead with 6.5 tackles for loss.

Linebacker Durrell Nchaami and defensive lineman Mosiah Nasil-Kite have received solid PFF grades so far this season, and the same is true of cornerback Jakorian Bennett and safety Nick Cross.

Bennett is second in the nation among Power 5 defensive backs with eight passes defended.

3. Overall, Maryland has a better roster than the other Big Ten teams Ohio State has faced this season.

The Terps are sixth in the Big Ten in the 247Sports Talent Composite, which ranks teams based on the recruiting rankings of its players coming out of high school.

They have 16 players who were four- or five-star prospects, more than previous OSU Big Ten opponents Minnesota (nine) and Rutger (six) combined.

Of course, that’s still only a quarter as many as Ohio State, but the Buckeyes’ 65 four- and five-star recruits are by far the most of any Big Ten team (21 more than Michigan and Penn State, who are tied for second).

“They have good players,” Day said. “Taulia is a very good quarterback. They have a very good scheme. Coach Locksley does a very good job. That’s playing football in the Big Ten. We have to bring it every week. We’re going to go against great players.”

4. Ryan Day does not want his team to think about what comes next.

Ohio State’s one open week in the schedule comes after the Buckeyes are done with Maryland. The break comes at the midway point in the season, and it precedes an Oct. 23 trip to Indiana.

“We’ll talk about that after the game,” Day said. “Right now I don’t even want to talk about that. I really just want to focus on this game right here and just maximizing today.”

This game also comes after Ohio State’s two best performances of the season, so it is not hard to see the Buckeyes taking a deep breath whether they intend to or not.

“Let’s just focus on winning this game and finding a way to win this game however it looks, and then we’ll then we’ll go from there,” Day said.

5. Don’t rule out another home night game for the Buckeyes this season.

Ohio State opened the season on a Thursday night in Minnesota, and the Buckeyes played host to Akron under the lights two weeks ago.

No more prime-time games are on the schedule — yet — but Day said that could change.

He likes noon games because they allow the team to get up and take care of business right away, but he acknowledged early starts can create some logistical issues for out-of-town recruits who want to see what game day is like in Columbus.

“Hopefully there’s going to be more opportunities as we head into the middle of October and November, but the noon kickoff is always also exciting, and it’s fun and for the guys who can get here,” Day said.

“When guys can make it, we certainly want to get them here. It’s a huge selling point for for our program.”


Maryland at Ohio State, Noon, Fox, 1410

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