Maryland's toughest road game of the year comes this Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, against No. 10 Ohio State. Colin Hass-Hill and Edward Sutelan — sports editor and assistant sports editor, respectively — of The Lantern gave their brutally honest insight into what Maryland can expect against the Buckeyes. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
To say Urban Meyer has had a successful run at Ohio State would be an understatement. Is it CFB Playoff (or even championship) or bust for these Buckeyes?
For Ohio State, every year is College Football Playoff or bust. That does not change this year, even though the Buckeyes have struggled and lost in the second week of the season to Oklahoma. Though Ohio State must beat Penn State in less than a month, Iowa on the road, Michigan on the road and win the 2017 Big Ten Championship Game to even have a shot to be selected, expectations for Urban Meyer and his teams have elevated expectations to the level that even a well-regarded non-CFP bowl would be relatively disappointing.
JT Barrett has been viewed under the microscope and has been scrutinized throughout this season. Why is this? Have these problems always existed?
The answer to the first questions helps understand the answer to the second question. If Ohio State is considered one of the top programs in college football, which means fans expect the best at every position, including quarterback. Is J.T. Barrett perfect? Absolutely not. His arm is not overly impressive and he has had considerable struggles throwing downfield. But he is the first three-time team captain in program history, a powerful runner and is statistically Ohio State's most productive quarterback ever. Since Barrett has started games for the Buckeyes since 2014, some fans have grown tired of his shortcomings. His issues have remained the same, but after years, watching the same quarterback with the same struggles has grated on part of the fan base.
Ohio State suffered a brutal loss against Oklahoma, which led to two-time Heisman runner-up Baker Mayfield planting the flag on Ohio State's logo at the 50. How did Oklahoma expose the Buckeyes and what is the blueprint to beating Ohio State?
Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma's offense took advantage of Ohio State's inexperienced, disappointing secondary and a group of linebackers which did not perform up to the high expectations set for the talented, experienced unit. On the other side of the ball, the offense could not get into a flow and was forced into many three-and-outs. Barrett and the receivers did not connect on intermediate and deep routes, which forced the offense to only rely upon its running game and short passes. If another team beats the Buckeyes, it will be because it picks apart Ohio State's secondary and plays well enough on defense against running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber on early downs that Barrett is forced to pass down the field.
How has Ohio State improved since that Week 2 loss? Was there a change in mood around the team following that game?
Given the high expectations and talent level, Ohio State never takes losses well, as it rarely plays a game in which it is not favored. The Buckeyes have bounced back as well as they could given the circumstances as the offense has clicked in recent weeks. But in some regard, it is difficult to tell how drastic Ohio State has improved because the is has played UNLV, Army and Rutgers. No one will truly know how improved the Buckeyes are until Oct. 28, when they play host to Penn State.
Dwayne Haskins was a big part of the DMV to UMD movement a few years ago, but when Head Coach Randy Edsall and top recruiter Mike Locksley (who was also the interim coach) were replaced by DJ Durkin, Haskins flipped his commitment and went to Ohio State. Haskins has appeared in a few games this season, How has he looked and is he next in line for QB after JT Barrett?
Haskins has looked steady, and at times impressive at quarterback in his few starts so far. His big arm talent is apparent and it is clear he can make some pretty remarkable throws, but he's also looked quite inaccurate at times. His lone interception of the season was nowhere near the target and returned for an ugly interception. Of course, most of his performances have to be taken somewhat with a grain of salt as he has made every appearance when the games were well out of reach.
As far as being next in line for quarterback, he is about guaranteed the backup spot this season. For next season, it is tough to tell who the starting quarterback will be. Colin will tell you it will be Tate Martell. Most will say it's Haskins. One crazy person I know thinks it's going to be Joe Burrow. Personally, I lean Haskins, but also acknowledge the case for Martell. Haskins is not a typical Urban Meyer quarterback as he is more of a pocket-passer while Martell is a more mobile quarterback. I just think it would be bold to give the starting quarterback job to someone who will have never taken a snap in a college football game (Martell) compared to someone who has seen time, albeit garbage time.
Ohio State is loaded with talent on defense, who are the key playmakers that Maryland fans should know before Saturday's game?
Does the entire defensive line count as one playmaker? The line suffered the loss of defensive tackle Dre'Mont Jones, but defensive end Jalyn Holmes seemingly filled the void and the line is clearly the most dominant asset the defense has. Defensive end Nick Bosa was rated as the best defensive player in the country by ProFootballFocus.com and he has looked the part of a dominant defensive end. Another defensive end, Sam Hubbard, will be a fascinating player to watch after the defensive line coach Larry Johnson hinted that he could be used as a pseudo-linebacker at times in addition to playing on the line. In the secondary, Denzel Ward has emerged as a near shutdown corner and easily the top corner for the team. It's really a wait and see game with the other corners as they have been inconsistent for the Buckeyes to this point in the season.
Ohio State will win if…
The game isn't cancelled Saturday. Ohio State's offense seems to have found its identity over the past several games and Barrett seems to have more chemistry with his receivers now than he did earlier in the season. And with Mike Weber now healthy, the offense has some extra weapons it didn't have earlier in the season. The defense also appears to be making noticeable strides, not just in the numbers, but in the play on the field. Ohio State is going to score a lot early, and I think Haskins could be in the game before the fourth quarter.
Maryland will win if…
Every starter for Ohio State gets injured during the first quarter. Maryland has no doubt made some strides this season and is absolutely a program on the rise, but it is well overmatched against Ohio State. Max Bortenschlager looked alright against Minnesota, but Ohio State is a different animal and he would really have to have an outstanding game for Maryland to have a chance. Maryland's running game will run into a challenge against Ohio State and it will need to have success passing to put up sufficient points. I do believe the Terrapins will score, but maybe only twice. It could just be two field goals.