Last Call: Final Thoughts, Questions and Predictions Entering Ohio State’s Big Ten East Matchup Against Maryland

By 11W Staff on October 9, 2021 at 7:35 am
Mike Locksley
© Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Two Big Ten challenges up, and two down for Ohio State so far.

The third comes in the form of 4-1 Maryland, a team that was riding high to start the year before suffering a setback loss to Iowa last weekend.

The Buckeyes, on the other hand, appear to be gaining steam entering Week 6, fresh off the best account of itself Ohio State has given all season against Rutgers on the road a week ago.

Before Saturday's noon kickoff at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, the Eleven Warriors staff shares some final thoughts, questions and predictions pertaining to the Buckeyes' meeting with the Terrapins.

Final Thoughts

Ohio State looks back to its dominant self 

In the last two weeks, the Buckeyes have outscored opponents 111-20. That’ll play. 

The young players contributing continue to get better every week, and the Buckeyes are smelling blood in the water for a third straight blowout win with a Maryland team coming to Columbus licking its wounds after a lopsided loss to Iowa last week. OSU has yet another opportunity for a statement win. 

– Garrick Hodge

Ohio State's performance will be measured against Iowa's

From the Buckeyes’ perspective, Iowa’s drubbing of Maryland last week may be a hard act to follow.

After a 4-0 Terrapin start to the year, the Hawkeyes quickly reversed any momentum for the program with a 51-14 blowout Oct. 1. Iowa made a quarterback in Taulia Tagovailoa, who looked like one of the best in the conference coming into the matchup, have perhaps the worst game of his life with five interceptions, and the Hawkeye defense tacked on two more turnovers even beyond that.

Of course, Ohio State should be much more concerned with its own happenings than those of third-ranked Iowa, but the two teams could be on a collision course come December. If the Buckeyes struggle at all with Maryland, it is no sure sign that they would fall to Kirk Ferentz and company. However, a similarly dominant performance against the Terps may indicate that Ohio State is right on pace with the top-ranked program in the Big Ten.

– Griffin Strom

We'll learn today whether the defense has actually improved

Ohio State's defense has looked much better in its last two games than it did in the first three games in the season, but it helped that the Buckeyes were playing Akron and Rutgers, who have both had little success offensively this season except when playing FCS opponents and Temple. Maryland, on the other hand, will be the first team Ohio State has played all season that's ranked in the top 25 nationally in total offense.

Reassigning play calling responsibilities to Matt Barnes, utilize more two-deep defensive looks and beginning to solidify the defensive lineup all seem to have paid dividends for the Buckeyes, but I need to see another strong showing against Maryland today to be really convinced that Ohio State’s defense has improved rather than just beating up on bad competition.

– Dan Hope

This is a really handy stretch for the Buckeyes

Honestly, this schedule could not have worked out better for the Buckeyes as they try to sort out their defense, perfect the offense and improve both in schematics and execution.

Starting with Akron, Ohio State's opponents get gradually better until that Oct. 30 matchup with Penn State, providing the Buckeyes with a chance to ease their way into better and better competition before what will likely be their biggest game of the season against the Nittany Lions.

Today marks the middle of that stretch. If Ohio State looks better than it did last week, today is a success.

– Kevin Harrish


Has C.J. Stroud figured it out? 

It was hard for C.J. Stroud to play any better than he did last week, all but ending calls for Kyle McCord to replace him. The injured shoulder that plagued him earlier in the season looked pretty healthy to me. Can he rack up back-to-back successful weeks?

– Garrick Hodge

Does the Maryland pass rush pose a threat?

Something’s got to give.

Only one team other than Maryland has at least 18 sacks among Big Ten teams (Michigan State), but the Buckeye offensive line has hardly given up pressure in abundance this season. The Terps have more sacks than any of Ohio State’s previous opponents to this point in the season, which could mean Maryland will be the stiffest challenge of the year for the Buckeye pass protection.

Alternatively, Ohio State and its current six-man rotation of lineman could prove that it’s on another level. Either way, limiting the disruptive nature of Maryland sacks leader Sam Okuayinonu – who has five in as many games this season – will be a priority for the Buckeye pass attack.

– Griffin Strom

Will the defensive ends step up?

Five games into the season, Ohio State’s defensive ends have combined for just two sacks. With a group of defensive ends that includes three experienced veterans (Zach Harrison, Tyreke Smith and Javontae Jean-Baptiste) and three five-star recruits (Harrison, J.T. Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer), that's simply not good enough.

Sacks don't always tell the whole story of how much pressure defensive ends are actually generating, but Ohio State’s defensive end rotation should be capable of dominating games, and that hasn’t happened yet. If the Buckeyes want to force Tagovailoa to make mistakes and shut down Maryland’s offense like Iowa did last week, more pressure off the edge would go a long way.

– Dan Hope

How will this Buckeye secondary hold up?

As much as the Buckeye defense struggled early this season, the downfield passing defense has actually been fairly strong. When Ohio State's been beaten in the passing game, it's mostly been beaten underneath with short passes behind the sticks.

Even in the losses, Ohio State's cornerbacks and safeties have actually been a bright spot in downfield coverage, breaking up many passes and causing plenty of interceptions. But today will be the biggest test so far for this young secondary, and we'll get to find out if the secondary is really a strength of the team.

– Kevin Harrish


Buckeyes score 50+ points in three straight games

Ohio State hasn't topped 50 points in three straight games since 2017, but I think that changes today against the Terrapins, who have allowed at least 49 points in each of their previous six games against Ohio State.

Maryland's defense has actually been solid this year – the 51 points Iowa scored last week had a lot to do with how many short fields the Hawkeyes got off turnovers – but I'm not sold that the Terrapins will have any consistent answers for Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes were never stopped when Stroud was still in the game against Rutgers (excluding the final possession of the first half when Ohio State let the clock run out), and I’d expect the starters to play at least a little bit longer against Maryland.

– Dan Hope

The pass rush comes alive

The Ohio State pass rush has been noticeably lacking so far this season, particularly on the edge. I think that's going to change today.

Part of the issue the pass rush has faced in terms of getting in a rhythm is that the Buckeyes really haven't played a team that likes to just drop back and throw the ball downfield. Instead, they've played teams mostly content with short and quick underneath passes.

But that's not Maryland's game. The Terrapins love to air it out, and they are going to give this Ohio State defensive line plenty of opportunities to rush the passer, and I think the Buckeyes will deliver.

– Kevin Harrish

OSU makes it four straight weeks with a defensive touchdown

At this point, why not, right? Especially after that turnover fest Maryland put together against the Hawkeyes. As for who gets it, I’ll say Ronnie Hickman gets his second defensive score of the year.

– Garrick Hodge

Ohio State keeps interception streak alive

The Buckeyes did not pick off a pass in the first two games of the year. In the past three games though, Ohio State has quickly racked up seven interceptions, including three pick-sixes and a trio of INTs against Rutgers alone.

As you all have surely heard plenty of times by now, Maryland quarterbacks combined to throw six interceptions in the same game last week. Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, the Terps won’t be facing a secondary that’s much less opportunistic than Iowa’s when it comes to picking off passes.

Tagovailoa only threw one interception on the year prior to the matchup with the Hawkeyes, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t see at least one Buckeye INT on Saturday.

– Griffin Strom

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