Buckeyes Look To Stay In High Gear

By Colin Barringer, October 7th, 2017

The No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes did everything they needed to accomplish last weekend against Rutgers. Unfortunately, fans still found things to complain about afterward.

The biggest targets centered around the offensive line and lack of a deep passing game. The same fans ignore the dynamic ability of the Buckeye receivers to tear up the opponents with their yards-after-catch (YAC) ability. With the speed in that locker room, J.T. Barrett just needs to worry about getting it in their hands regardless of the method.

Besides that, everything has been according to plan over the last three weeks as the Buckeyes (4-1, 2-0) have been winning in dominant fashion. As for this week, it should not continue the trend of cupcake opponents. Here is our dissection of Game 6 against the Maryland Terrapins (3-1, 1-0):

When Ohio State Has The Ball
All season long, the coaches have reiterated that the receivers have a rotation of six players leading the way. To this point, we must point to redshirt junior Johnnie Dixon as the man leading the way. With Parris Campbell by his side, these two are breaking down opposing defenses with their video-game style YAC numbers.

Along with the running backs, Dixon and Campbell have to make Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin rather nervous.

The defensive mastermind Durkin must find the ability to neutralize OSU’s skill players. During his time as defensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida and a short stint at Michigan, Durkin proved he has the pedigree to develop that unit for Maryland during his tenure.

Meyer spoke highly this week regarding when expressing his feelings for his former Florida DC.

“He was an impact coach,” Durbin said. “I think of all the guys I’ve had, he’s one of the top two or three I’ve ever had on our staff.”

But to this point, Durkin’s crew has struggled mightily in relation to Big Ten standards.

With Maryland ranking 94th against the pass and 48th stopping the run, those numbers would suggest a beautiful matchup for the Buckeyes. The issue is that those numbers are largely inflated due to a shootout against Texas during Week 1. Outside of that one game, the Terps have limited some below-average teams to bring their rankings back to respectable levels.

Regardless, the numbers are thrown out the window when you play against the Buckeyes in the Horseshoe. The Terrapins have to rise to the occasion so that their offense avoids feeling the pressure to engage in an offensive shootout.

When Maryland Has The Ball
The ghosts of Maryland’s 2012 season have returned in the form of quarterback injuries.

In that year, The Terrapins lost their starter to a transfer decision before the season, and the four remaining signal callers all suffered season-ending injuries. The roster was so depleted to the point where then-freshman linebacker Shawn Petty started at QB for the final four games.

The 2017 season has not reached that point yet, but the results have been similar so far. North Carolina transfer Caleb Henderson injured himself in the preseason. In the first three games of the year, sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and freshman Kasim Hill were lost for the season due to ACL injuries.

Enter QB4 Max Bortenschlager, a sophomore with some relative game experience in the 2016 season. Bortenschlager had a solid showing last weekend against Minnesota by completing 64 percent of his passes and two touchdowns. With the skill guys in the Terrapins’ repertoire, Bortenschlager just needs to be a game manager.

The main skill guy, junior wide receiver D.J. Moore, will be the best wideout to face the Buckeyes since Simmie Cobbs Jr. from Indiana. Through four games, Moore has 30 catches for 403 yards and five touchdowns. His dynamic ability also allows him to receive rushing attempts as he averages 15 yards per carry with a touchdown on the season.

OSU secondary and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs knows what his unit is facing this weekend.

“He’s the top receiver in the Big Ten statistically right now, but the good news is we play (against) a lot of those guys everyday (in practice),” Coombs said.

The other noteworthy player is junior running back Ty Johnson. After eclipsing 1,000 yards on just over 100 carries in 2016, Johnson has picked up where he left off leading to an 8.9 yards-per-carry average this season. He seems to have that ability to play fresh all the time because he has been splitting carries with sophomore Lorenzo Harrison III.

Harrison has been the tough-yard back, while Johnson serves as the home-run hitter. The Buckeyes will have to take a page out of Central Florida’s strategy as UCF completely shut him down in Week 2.

Prediction
This one may get tricky because you just do not know what to expect out of Bortenschlager. His game-manager mentality will help him limit the plan and simplify his reads, but playing the Silver Bullets with limited experience is a challenge.

Moore will have his moments, which is expected of a guy soaring up NFL draft boards. Johnson can be limited, and this will be a tough test for the Buckeye front seven.

The offense should be able to score on Maryland, but that unit will face more resistance than Rutgers attempted to give last week. It should be a satisfying victory for Meyer, and a crucial steppingstone heading into a hostile environment next weekend at Nebraska.

No. 10 Ohio State 42, Maryland 14