Things had been going well for the Maryland Terrapins this season. But then they played the Iowa Hawkeyes last Friday, and things took a decided turn for the worst. The season has not been going as well as expected for Ohio State. But they are just 4-1 and ranked inside the top ten, so things cannot be going too poorly for them. However, when these two meet in Columbus Saturday afternoon, the season could take a turn for both teams.
People will start taking Maryland seriously if they can steal a win. Should that happen, some Ohio State fans will probably call for head coach Ryan Day’s job. But is it possible? Could the Terrapins upset the Buckeyes? But another loss could cause Maryland to spiral out of control while a win may get Ohio State a step closer to getting back in the CFP picture.
Turnovers were a real issue for Maryland and especially for quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa last season. If they were going to have any success in 2021, the turnovers had to get under control. For the first four games of the season, they were. Tagovailoa threw one interception (against Kent); otherwise, he had taken good care of the ball. But things took a turn for the worse against Iowa.
Maryland had seven turnovers in the game; five of them were interceptions thrown by Tagovailoa. Iowa went on to stomp the Terrapins, 51-13. Despite the poor game, Maryland still has one of the country’s more efficient (27th) and productive passing offenses (13th in yards).
If they have any chance of pulling off the upset against Ohio State, Tagovailoa needs to bring his A+ game. That means no turnovers, completing around 70 percent of his passes (or better), and 300+ yards. That is not an impossible task with how the Ohio State defense has played this season (98th in yards allowed). But, as necessary, will be whether the Maryland defense can step its game up.
The Terrapins D has not been bad, statistically. It just hasn’t been that great. It ranks 54th in total yards allowed, is not bad against the run (37th), nor is it terrible against the pass (71st). As for scoring, they are allowing 21.6 points/game (46th). Not bad, just not great. However, it is worth noting that none of the teams Maryland has beaten compare to the Buckeyes.
So, while they appear to have a chance of pulling off the upset from a statistical perspective, stats are rarely a reliable indicator of how good a team is or is not.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have not looked like the kind of team Ohio State fans are accustomed to seeing. But the trouble has not been on the offensive side of the ball. Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud has not been fantastic this season, but he has not been bad at all. If anything, his only issue has been consistency, hence his completion percentage ranging from 59.1 percent to 73.9 in his four starts.
Issues like that are to be expected when you have a young quarterback stepping into the starter’s role for the first time. It is not hard to imagine him playing better and better as the season goes on. It does not hurt that he has a couple of future NFL wide receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
However, what could allow the Terrapins to steal a win is the Ohio State defense. Teams have not had too much trouble running (77th in the nation) or throwing (T-98th) against the Buckeyes this season. Tulsa managed to throw for 400+ on the Ohio State secondary; Minnesota and Oregon ran for 200+. Maryland does not have the run game to put up those kinds of numbers, but their passing game could go for 400+.
If the defense does struggle, it could be a long day for Ohio State fans. But if the offense lives up to its potential, it may not matter how well the defense plays. Stroud and that offense have the potential to outscore anyone if they are on the field enough.
The safest bet in this game is an easy one—take the over. With the potential both offenses have going up against lackluster defenses, this could be a high-scoring game won by the team that has the ball last. How you should bet against the spread or via the moneyline depends on how much risk you are willing to take versus the possible reward.
For those who are risk-averse and more concerned with not losing your money than winning more, take Ohio State via the moneyline. However, for those with a little faith in Tagovailoa and no confidence in the Ohio State secondary, take Maryland and the points.
It is unlikely Maryland pulls off the upset, even if the Terrapins bring their ‘A’ game, and the Buckeyes do not. But it is not hard to see Maryland staying within 21-points if Tagovailoa and the Terrapins offense can limit the turnovers.