Five things to know heading into the Terps' game against Ohio State

September 30, 2014|By Matt Zenitz | Baltimore Sun Media Group

On Saturday, Maryland will take the field with Ohio State, one of the power teams in the Big Ten Conference and one of the favorites to win the East Division.

The Terps believe they have the talent to beat teams like the Buckeyes. This is their chance to prove it. A win also would put Maryland at 2-0 in conference play with likely only one team more talented than Ohio State remaining on the Terps’ schedule.

This is a big opportunity for Maryland and a big game for a number of reasons.

Here are five things to know about Ohio State:

Redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett is doing well

Barrett stepped in as the Buckeyes’ starter after star quarterback Braxton Miller suffered a season-ending shoulder injury during preseason practice.

Barrett had some issues early in the season and was just 9 of 29 with three interceptions during Ohio State’s 35-21 loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 6.

Since then, though, Barrett has excelled.

He completed 23 of 30 passes for 312 yards, six touchdowns and just one interception in leading the Buckeyes to a 66-0 win over Kent State. Barrett was then 26 of 36 for 330 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions during Ohio State’s 50-28 win over Cincinnati last weekend while also running for 79 yards on 14 carries.

Is Barrett the same level of threat as Miller? Maybe not. But Barrett is coming along, making plays, and he helped the Buckeyes put up 710 yards of total offense and 45 first downs during the win over Cincinnati.

Not many quarterbacks around the country possess the kind of skills that Miller has as a runner. However, Barrett is more of a weapon than Miller as a passer while also still possessing some running ability of his own.

Barrett is young and has made just four career starts. But he has looked good in Ohio State’s last two games.

Ohio State has three capable running backs

Carlos Hyde is gone. However, the Buckeyes have three running backs who have proven capable of making plays.

Sophomore Ezekiel Elliott, 6 feet, 225 pounds, ran for 182 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against Cincinnati and is averaging 5.9 yards per carry for the year. Freshman Curtis Samuel ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries against Kent State and also had four catches for 40 yards. And 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior Rod Smith had 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries against Cincinnati.

It is hard to replace someone like Hyde, especially when they also lost backup running back Jordan Hall and Miller. But Ohio State does still have talent at the position, and Elliott, Samuel and Smith could all see time against Maryland, although Elliott appears to be the primary ball-carrier at this point.

Ohio State has a lot of talent in its front seven

The Buckeyes have allowed only 2.9 yards per carry in the last three games and have 26 tackles for a loss in only four games despite playing without star defensive end Noah Spence, who is suspended and has yet to play this year.

Sophomore defensive end Joey Bosa has 2 1/2 sacks and three forced fumbles. Senior defensive tackle Michael Bennett is viewed by some analysts as a possible top-15 draft pick, and there are experienced and productive players like senior Curtis Grant and junior Joshua Perry at linebacker.

Maryland could have some trouble running the football, especially if quarterback C.J. Brown is unable to play. The Terps’ offensive line also will be tested trying to hold up in pass protection against players like Bosa.

The secondary may be a bit of a weakness for the Buckeyes

This is one of the primary areas in which Maryland looks to have a clear advantage. The Terps have players like Stefon Diggs and Deon Long at wide receiver. Ohio State, meanwhile, gave up 352 yards and four touchdowns through the air last weekend to Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel, who completed 21 of his 32 pass attempts and did not throw an interception.

Senior Doran Grant is likely one of the better cornerbacks in the Big Ten. However, the Buckeyes have two freshmen listed as co-starters opposite Grant and have a first-year starter at safety in sophomore Vonn Bell.

One of the freshman cornerbacks, Eli Apple, was beaten for a long touchdown against Cincinnati. Bell was beaten on another long touchdown.

If Maryland is going to have any chance to win Saturday, the Terps likely will have to take advantage of that secondary and make some plays through the air.

Ohio State lost four of its five starters from last year’s offensive line

Barrett has only been sacked once in Ohio State’s last two games.

But left tackle Taylor Decker is the only member of the Buckeyes’ offensive line who was a starter last season, and Ohio State’s line at the very least had some trouble in pass protection during the Buckeyes’ first two games.

Barrett was under a decent amount of pressure during Ohio State’s season-opening win vs. Navy and was then sacked seven times against Virginia Tech.

mzenitz@tribune.com

twitter.com/mzenitz

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