Terps have 'tremendous opportunity' against Ohio State
By By Matt Zenitz
Baltimore Sun Media Group|
Oct 03, 2014 | 10:36 PM
COLLEGE PARK — Randy Edsall's goal this week was to keep the pre-game preparation as routine as possible.
The Maryland football coach told his team that Ohio State is just another opponent, that the Buckeyes have good players but the Terps 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 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 league and on a national level.
A victory would also move Maryland to 2-0 in the Big Ten with only two teams left on the schedule that appear to be either on par or better than Ohio State talent-wise.
"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 [division], then they have to take care of Ohio State and let people know that they're one of those teams."
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 then was 26 of 36 for 330 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against Cincinnati.
Barrett also rushed for 79 yards on 14 carries against the Bearcats while several times using his 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 receivers, a potential early-to-mid round draft pick at tight end in Jeff Heuerman and an offensive line that 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. This will be another test.
"Maryland's defense has got to rise to the challenge," Spielman said.
Even 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 Maryland the last couple days. The more I watch, the more impressed I am."
What's at stake: The Terps have a chance to move to 2-0 in the Big Ten. They have an opportunity to gain even more credibility and respect in their new conference. And they can continue to elicit interest in their program if they do manage to knock off a team with the name-power and No. 20 ranking that Ohio State carries.
Key matchups: Maryland will look to slow an Ohio State offense that has come together in recent weeks as redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett has gotten more comfortable. The Terps will also look to make some plays against a young Buckeyes secondary that Ohio State coach Urban Meyer referred to as the Buckeyes' "Achilles' heel."
Players to watch: Barrett and running back Ezekiel Elliott are two obvious ones. But also keep an eye on defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Michael Bennett on the Buckeyes' defense. Bosa is likely one of the better defensive ends in the country and has 4 1/2 tackles for a loss, 2 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles. Bennett could be a top-15 draft pick next April. Also look for tight end Jeff Heuerman, who told reporters in Ohio this week that the Buckeyes are "going to welcome [Maryland] to the Big Ten."