COLLEGE PARK — Maryland coach Randy Edsall's goal this week was to keep the pregame preparation as routine as possible.
Edsall told his team that Ohio State is just another team, that the Buckeyes have good players but that the Terrapins do, too.
Nothing changed about Maryland's practice schedule. Edsall even turned down numerous interview requests because he did not want his players to see him doing anything different than he would during a normal week.
But Edsall, his players and the rest of the Terps' football program recognize the significance of Saturday's game against No. 20 Ohio State.
Maryland (4-1) will be playing in front of its first sellout crowd at Byrd Stadium since 2008. This is the Terps' first conference home game as a member of the Big Ten, and players and coaches all understand what a win over the 3-1 Buckeyes would do for the perception of Maryland within the Terps' new conference and on a national level.
People outside the program do as well.
"I think it's huge [for Maryland]," said former Ohio State and NFL linebacker Chris Spielman, who covers college football for ESPN and will be providing color commentary for the game Saturday on ABC. "If they want to be a player, especially in the East, then they have to take care of Ohio State and let people know that they're one of those teams."
A victory would also move Maryland to 2-0 in the Big Ten with only two teams left on its schedule that appear to be either on par or better than Ohio State talent-wise.
"We have a tremendous opportunity," Edsall said.
One of the keys for the Terps will be finding a way to slow down an Ohio State offense that put up 50 points and 710 yards during a win over Cincinnati last week.
Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett struggled some early in the season after being forced to step in for injured star Braxton Miller. But Barrett was 23 of 30 for 312 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception during the Buckeyes' 66-0 win over Kent State on Sept. 13 and was then 26 of 36 for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions vs. Cincinnati.
Barrett also ran for 79 yards on 14 carries against the Bearcats while several times using his legs and mobility to avoid potential sacks and create positive yardage.
In addition to Barrett, Ohio State has three capable running backs. That includes 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, who ran for 182 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against Cincinnati while also catching five passes for 50 yards.
The Buckeyes also have some playmakers at wide receiver, a potential early round draft pick in tight end Jeff Heuerman and an offensive line Spielman said has improved since allowing seven sacks during Ohio State's 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6.
Maryland's defense limited a high-scoring Indiana offense to 15 points and just 332 yards of total offense last week.
"Maryland's defense has got to rise to the challenge," Spielman said.
One of the other keys for the Terps will be holding up along the offensive line against an Ohio State defensive front considered to be among the best in the country.
Maryland may have an advantage at wide receiver against a relatively young Buckeyes secondary that allowed Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel to throw for 352 yards and four touchdowns last week.
But pressure from the Buckeyes' defensive front could minimize what the Terps can do in the passing game.
"We're going to have to do some things to find a way to manufacture some runs against them and some plays," Terps offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said.
If the Terps can, things could get interesting.
Quarterback C.J. Brown will be a game-time decision after suffering a sprained left wrist last week. However, Brown practiced this week and looked good in practice, according to sources. If Brown can't play, the Terps have backup quarterback Caleb Rowe, who threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns during the second half against Indiana after replacing Brown.
"I think it's a great matchup," Spielman said. "I think it's an underrated matchup. Ohio State played its best game last week, and I've been watching the Maryland the last couple days. The more I watch, the more impressed I am."
Reach staff writer Matt Zenitz at 410-857-7896 or email@example.com.
Ohio State (3-1) at Maryland 4-1
When: Saturday, noon
Site: Byrd Stadium
TV/Radio: ABC/105.7 FM
Series: First meeting
What's at stake: The Terps have a chance to move to 2-0 in the Big Ten and to gain credibility and respect in their new conference if they manage to knock off a team with the name-power and No. 20 ranking of Ohio State.