Despite an early season loss to No. 5 Oklahoma, Ohio State seemed to be well on its way to another College Football Playoff appearance, beating No. 2 Penn State in a thriller on Oct. 28, 2017. That is, until the Buckeyes traveled to Kinnick Stadium In Iowa City and fell to Iowa 55-24. This season, with another highly ranked matchup with Penn State ahead for Ohio State, here are the games that could be what the Hawkeyes were last season: a trap game.
Wyatt Crosher, Assistant Sports Editor
No. 9 Penn State might jump off the page. So might No. 14 Michigan. No. 21 Michigan State even shows up as an opponent to highlight on the schedule for Ohio State.
But Maryland? Maryland just slips right through the cracks.
Don’t sleep on the Terrapins so soon though. They sit at 3-1, are tied for the third-best record in the Big Ten and have a win over a ranked opponent — 34-29 against now-No. 18 Texas.
The offense lives on its running game, with a trio of backs rushing the ball more than 25 times thus far. Senior Ty Johnson, redshirt freshman Anthony McFarland and sophomore Tayon Fleet-Davis have combined for 739 yards and seven touchdowns this season on the ground, with Johnson and McFarland each averaging more than seven yards per carry.
Maryland has also found its way through the air with redshirt freshman quarterback Kasim Hill. A four-star prospect according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, Hill has been a serviceable quarterback in his first year under center, throwing for 516 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.
For a Maryland offense that lives on the run game, Hill’s stats don’t jump off the page, but they allow for enough of a threat to open up the Terrapins’ run game, which could find more space with the lack of junior defensive end Nick Bosa.
It is too early to know if Bosa will be ready for a game in November, but even with him in the game, Ohio State allowed three runs of more than 70 yards, two of which were to an Oregon State team that is far from impressive.
The Buckeyes looked like a pass-first offense when redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins ignited against Tulane, while sophomore and redshirt junior running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber struggled to get much going.
Maryland offers more trouble in the run game, allowing only 104 yards per game on the ground, No. 19 in the nation.
Stats aside, because Ohio State is clearly the better team on paper, Maryland offers the Buckeyes the toughest placement on their schedule.
Ohio State travels to College Park on Nov. 17, the second-to-last week of the regular season, in between a road matchup against Michigan State and home game against the Wolverines.
The back-to-back road game is the ultimate trap-game trope, and it is the same one Ohio State fell to last year in its brutal defeat to Iowa that cost the team a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Michigan State is a large enough opponent to give the Buckeyes a difficult matchup, leaving them vulnerable against the Terrapins a week later. More importantly, the Michigan game the week after takes a lot of attention away from a Maryland game many will see as a pushover before the huge rivalry matchup.
The Terrapins have proven their ability to upset strong teams just four games into the season, and have proven to be strong running the ball and strong defending the run.
Maryland offers the hardest road game on the schedule strictly by being the game before Michigan and after Michigan State. But it helps that the Terrapins might actually have some weapons to make Ohio State’s in-between game that much harder.
Colin Gay, Sports Editor
Historically, Ohio State has never had any issues with Purdue.
The Buckeyes have won 39 of 55 matchups against the Boilermakers, winning both games against the team in head coach Urban Meyer’s tenure — a 29-22 win in Columbus in 2012 and a 56-0 beatdown in Indiana in 2013.
Based on Purdue’s record through the first four games of the season, Ohio State seems to be on a similar path when it faces the Boilermakers on Oct. 20.
Purdue has lost three of its first four games of the season, including an opening conference-game loss to Northwestern on Aug. 30.
However, a trend seems to be continuing that the Boilermakers began last season.
After finishing the 2017 season with a 7-6 record, with one-score losses to No. 16 Louisville and No. 7 Wisconsin, Purdue’s three losses in four games to start the 2018 season have each been by one score and are carrying a plus-9 score differential heading into the fifth game of the season despite posting a record of 1-3.
The Boilermakers entered the win column on Saturday, defeating No. 23 Boston College for the team’s first ranked win since beating No. 23 Illinois 21-14 on Oct. 22, 2011.
With redshirt senior quarterback David Blough, the Boilermakers have been doing the same thing all season. Blough completed 21-of-28 pass attempts for 296 yards and three touchdowns, extending his completion percentage to 71.6 percent with six touchdowns to one interception.
For Blough, it helps to have a receiver like freshman Rondale Moore in the passing game. He led the team in the win over Boston College with eight receptions for 110 yards, bringing in his third and fourth touchdown receptions of the season.
Like many teams before it, Boston College could not get its running game going against the Purdue defense. Despite allowing 138.3 yards per game, the Boilermaker defense grants opposing backs an average of 3.6 yards per carry, with the Eagles averaging 3.4 yards per carry on Saturday.
Linebacker Cornel Jones has made a major impact in the middle, leading the team with eight tackles for loss, including 2.5 sacks through the first four games.
Ever since Jeff Brohm became the head coach at Purdue prior to the start of the 2017 season, the Boilermakers have gone 1-3 against ranked opponents, never losing by more than 18 points to an opponent. After recording a 4-2 record at Ross-Ade Stadium, the Boilermakers are still looking for that signature win for Brohm’s tenure.
After facing No. 9 Penn State on Saturday, Ohio State will not have another chance at a ranked opponent until Nov. 10 against Michigan State. If the Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions on Saturday, Ohio State could have a period of time, with games against Indiana and Minnesota, during which it wins even if mistakes are made.
With Purdue’s track record against ranked opponents and its ability to win at home under Brohm, Ohio State must have Oct. 20 circled on its calendar as a trap game.
Edward Sutelan, Editor-in-chief
Michigan State has upset Ohio State in some key moments in the past seven matchups between the two teams.
The Buckeyes lost to the Spartans for the first time since the millenium flipped from the 1900s to the 2000s in 2011 when Michigan State won 10-7 in Columbus. Two years later, Michigan State kept a previously undefeated and second-ranked Ohio State from a likely BCS Championship Game appearance with a 34-24 upset in the 2013 Big Ten Championship. Another two years pass, and Michigan State, again, kept Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff with a stunning walk-off field goal in Columbus to win 17-14 in 2015, later going on to win the Big Ten.
One thing has remained constant though about the losses for the Buckeyes: they’ve never come in East Lansing, Michigan.
Despite winning three of the past seven meetings, the Spartans have not defeated Ohio State in front of their home fans since 1999. In fact, since the first matchup in East Lansing, Ohio State has won 16 of 21 clashes in front of a green and white-clad crowd. Michigan State’s longest home winning streak against the Buckeyes is just two games, while Ohio State is currently running a six-game winning streak.
But this rivalry between the two teams has gotten interesting in recent years. Whenever Ohio State has appeared to be a clear favorite, Michigan State always finds a way to make it close or even come away with the upset.
No. 4 Ohio State will enter the matchup this year as the heavy favorite over No. 21 Michigan State barring a collapse by the Buckeyes or an unexpected resurgence by the Spartans, who already sit at 2-1 on the year.
Michigan State has not looked the part of a dominant team this season. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is completing 66 percent of his passes, but has a 5-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The running backs are averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and have only scored four rushing touchdowns.
However, in previous meetings, Michigan State has almost always been considered the underdog. Rarely, if ever, have the Spartans appeared to be the clear favorite.
Yet they seem to always be that one team that gives Ohio State trouble when everything is going right for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has a clear path to a championship? Michigan State seems to get in the way, or at least provide the Buckeyes with a worthy challenge.
Even in 2016 when Michigan State entered the Nov. 20 matchup with a 3-7 record and 1-6 conference record compared to Ohio State’s 9-1 and 6-1 marks, it was only a failed two-point conversion with 4:41 remaining and a later interception that kept Michigan State from beating the Buckeyes.
On paper, Ohio State should handle the Spartans. The Buckeyes are viewed as a national title contender and the Big Ten frontrunner. The Spartans are viewed as a fringe top-25 team.
But in Spartan Stadium on Nov. 10, Ohio State could again be on upset watch.