Ohio State is preparing for their first ever meeting with Maryland. In fact, in a quirk of scheduling, the Terrapins have never faced any of their next three opponents (OSU, Iowa, Wisconsin), but have at least a little backstory with every other team they play this year.
Another notable first associated with this contest? It’s Maryland’s first ever Big Ten home game, which could provide some extra motivation to a team that is already 4-1, and only a few plays against West Virginia away from being 5-0.
To continue padding a healthy win total, though, Maryland will have to recover from a rash of injuries. A number of those are of the nagging, but not debilitating variety. Then there are those that are more significant.
Starting defensive end Quinton Jefferson? Done for the season. Starting tight end Andrew Isaacs? Done for the season. Backup linebacker Cavon Walker? Done for the season.
Starting quarterback CJ Brown? Well, that’s more of a question mark. He sprained his left wrist in the team’s most recent 37-15 win over Indiana, and head coach Randy Edsall said he wouldn’t say anything more about Brown’s status until just before the Terrapins take the field against the Buckeyes.
Brown was both Maryland’s leading passer and rusher going into that game against the Hoosiers. His backup, junior Caleb Rowe, is much more of a pocket passer.
Given that, and the fact that Rowe has more experience than a lot of backups do, Ohio State could see their pass defense tested once again.
That’s especially true given that Maryland features two of the more talented receivers in the league. Stephon Diggs has 29 catches for 398 yards. He’s also the league’s best kickoff returner, averaging 29.4 yards. (More on Maryland’s dangerous special teams in a bit.)
Deon Long has added 21 catches for another 250 yards.
And yet neither of them leads the team in touchdown receptions. That distinction belongs to Marcus Leak, who has 3 scores and is averaging 17.6 yards/catch.
As mentioned before, when CJ Brown was healthy, he was the focus of the running attack, often executing a zone-read option. Outside him, Wes Brown and Brandon Ross have combined to average 72 yards a game.
Defensively, Maryland is similar to Cincinnati, in that both teams have at times given up numerous yards, but were (up until the Bearcats faced Ohio State last weekend) clamping down in the red zone.
Illustrating this is the fact that Maryland is the top team in the league in red zone defense, while they are 13th in total defense (nearly 435 yards/game). And, as if to underline the similarity to Cincinnati, before last week, the Terps were one spot ahead of the Bearcats in total defense nationally.
Maryland managed to stifle Indiana, though.
That’s due in part to the effort of safety Sean Davis, who led the team with 102 tackles last year and continues to be a force this year. Defensive back William Likely has stretched his 5’7″ frame to record 3 picks, 5 pass breakups and one forced fumble. Finally, Yannick Ngakoue has already tallied 7 tackles-for-loss, costing opponents 46 yards in the process.
However, it’s special teams where Maryland has really shone. They have one of the best kick returners in the country in Diggs. They’ve blocked 3 kicks and 2 punts. Finally, their kicker, Brad Craddock is a perfect 10/10 this season with a long of 49.
Ohio State will play Maryland at noon this Saturday on 97.1 The Fan.