Terrapins Can Make It Terrible For Ohio State’s First MD Visit

Ohio State travels to Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland, for its first ever contest against B1G newcomer Maryland. Maryland was projected as having a strong initial season within the B1G, and this trip to Byrd Stadium should prove to be quite a raucous beginning for Ohio State as the Buckeyes begin conference play for the 2014 season.

Last weekend’s contest versus the University of Cincinnati left Ohio State fans curious about the Buckeye pass defense. New co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash was brought in during the offseason to fix what was considered the weakest link in Ohio State’s defense. After allowing Bearcats WR Chris Moore to average nearly 74 yards per reception (3 receptions for 221 yards, 3 touchdowns), who could blame Ohio State fans for feeling somewhat anxious heading into a game that features two of the B1G’s leading receivers in former Ohio State recruiting target Stefon Diggs and Deon Long?

Besides Diggs and Long, Maryland features other players on its roster who may be familiar to Ohio State fans. Players such as OT Damian Prince, OT Derwin Gray, and WR Taivon Jacobs were all recruited by Ohio State, but chose Maryland instead. The lone Ohioan listed on Maryland’s roster is freshman TE Andrew Gray, who did not receive an Ohio State scholarship offer.

Three areas I will focus upon during the game are:

– Ohio State’s Press Coverage With Its Secondary: Anytime a team decides to play aggressively with its pass defense, it is a high risk, high reward situation. Receivers such as Diggs and Long can easily take a pass all the way to the end zone, like Chris Moore did last weekend. Will Ohio State adjust its safety play to offer up more help to its cornerbacks, and help neutralize the threat of big plays?

– Ohio State’s Pass Rush Must Come Up Big: So far this season, sophomore DE Joey Bosa has been causing disruptive plays along the line of scrimmage, resulting in turnovers against the opposition. Will Bosa be able to come up big again, especially against a Maryland team that may double-team him? If Bosa is double-teamed, will Adolphus Washington or Michael Bennett be able to pick up the slack, and create the necessary pressure to help Ohio State’s secondary?

– Ohio State’s Run Game Must Control The Clock: Against Cincinnati, sophomore RB Ezekiel Elliott ran for 182 yards, while teammates J.T. Barrett, Rod Smith, Dontre Wilson, Curtis Samuel, and Jalin Marshall also contributed to the overall team rushing effort (380 yards on the ground). To keep Maryland off the field, Ohio State will need its rushing attack to come through in the clutch time of this contest.

While the oddsmakers have penciled Ohio State as a strong favorite, I believe this game will be in doubt until midway through the fourth quarter. Even though there will be anxious moments for Ohio State fans, players, and coaches, I have it Ohio State 42, Maryland 31, with Ohio State scoring a late touchdown to secure its first B1G victory of the 2014 season.

Ranking The 2014 Ohio State Football Schedule (Part One)

As Ohio State fans everywhere anxiously count down the days toward the start of a new football season, it is somewhat natural to review the schedule from start to finish. Which game looks to be the easiest? Which game may be the most difficult or challenging? Which game could be a trap for the Buckeyes?

Over the period of two articles, I will give you my perspective on the 2014 Ohio State football schedule, ranking the games from the perceived easiest, through the games that could truly jeopardize Ohio State’s goals of winning the B1G Championship in 2014. Let us begin.

I. Easiest: By my definition, Ohio State should have this type of game well in hand by the end of the first half, and certainly by the end of the third quarter. These are the type of games where it would truly serve Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer to play as many backup players as possible, for live game action and skill development.

1. Kent State (09/13/2014 – 12pm EST kickoff, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2 telecast): A sort of homecoming for former Ohio State assistant Paul Haynes and former Buckeye Najee Murray, this game might get out of hand in a hurry, if past games versus the Golden Flashes are any indication (2002 – Ohio State 51, Kent State 17. 2007 – Ohio State 48, Kent State 3). Yes, I know that Kent State played well in 2012 (11-3 record), but I believe Kent State will be overwhelmed by the superior speed and athleticism of the Buckeyes in this one.

2. Illinois (11/01/2014 – 8pm EST kickoff, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2): Last season, Illinois played Ohio State tough until the fourth quarter before losing, 60-35. Considering how Illinois head coach Tim Beckman is under fire to save his job, how Ohio State is looking at a challenging slate of November contests, and how this will be under the lights in Ohio Stadium for Halloween weekend, I see Coach Meyer wanting to send a message with this one.

3. Rutgers (10/18/2014 – 3:30pm EST kickoff, telecast TBD): Rutgers’ first visit to Ohio Stadium may not be an easy one. Rutgers has a bye week before the contest with Ohio State. Unfortunately for them, so do the Buckeyes. This might be the game that spends Rutgers’ first season in The B1G into a downward spiral.

4. Indiana (11/22/2014 – kickoff and telecast TBD): In 2013, Ohio State had this game well in hand 28-0 by the end of the first half. Indiana did not score until late, losing 42-14. While Indiana has probably made strides defensively, the fact that this game will serve as Ohio State’s final home game of the 2014 season does not bode well for the Hoosiers.

II. Trap Games: Any football coach worries about complacency and overlooking their opponents. Several of these teams have the talent and coaching to stick with Ohio State, possibly until the end of the contest.

5. @ Maryland (10/04/2014 – kickoff and telecast TBD): Maybe I am giving the Terrapins too much credit, but I believe Byrd Stadium will be well-amped for the first B1G contest between Maryland and Ohio State. Maryland WR Stefon Diggs was heavily coveted by Coach Meyer in 2012, and could play for any football team in the country. Ohio State will win this game, but I look for this one to last until the end of the third quarter before the Buckeyes pull away.

6. @ Penn State (10/25/2014 – 8pm EST kickoff, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2): The designated “white out” game for the Nittany Lions, Penn State head coach James Franklin will do his best to have the fans and the players ready for this one. Ohio State is familiar with the “white out” theme, having played at Penn State in 2012 in a similar theme. Another bonus for Penn State is the Nittany Lions will have a bye week before this contest, while Ohio State will not. Revenge will be a topic, as Penn State looks to avenge its 63-14 mauling by Ohio State from last season. Look for a Buckeye victory, but for it not to be easy.

Part two will cover the remaining 2014 Ohio State contests, ranking the games in difficulty as I see them. Hope to see you then.