Three teams have scored 50 or more points on Ohio State in the past 72 years, and one of them was the 2018 Maryland Terrapins.
Ohio State holds the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff ranking, with a 42.5-point spread over Maryland, but being favored didn’t help the Buckeyes much in the matchup a season ago.
“It’s nice that they respect us enough to put us at the No. 1 spot, but it really doesn’t matter if we don’t beat Maryland,” senior safety Jordan Fuller said.
The Buckeyes very nearly didn’t beat the Terrapins this past season, squeaking out a 52-51 overtime victory against a team that entered with a 3-4 Big Ten record. Ohio State is in a much different place than it was a year ago, however.
Having already suffered a 29-point loss to unranked Purdue in 2018, Ohio State was barely holding on to a top 10 spot with a defense giving up 386 yards per game entering the week. It would give up 340 on the ground alone to Maryland, on a day that returning Buckeye defenders will not soon forget.
“That was probably one of the most stressful games for us as a defense,” Fuller said. “We definitely want to make up for that. Still approaching it just like any other game. They’re really talented players. I mean we learned that last year.”
Fuller said he hasn’t watched the previous matchup, and it’s no surprise why, given there weren’t many positive takeaways for a defense that allowed 536 yards on the day.
This year’s unit, however, hasn’t allowed a single team within 248 yards of that mark, as Ohio State boasts the nation’s No. 2 total and No. 1 scoring defense.
The Terrapins have changed, as well, though not necessarily for the better.
First-year head coach Mike Locksley is the fourth man to take over the program in the past five seasons, and the Terrapins’ 3-6 start is their worst since 2015.
Owning the ninth-worst passing attack in the nation in 2018, Maryland’s strength came from its top 20 rushing offense, led by then-redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland, who ran for 7.9 yards per carry. McFarland ran for 210 yards a week before his 298-yard performance against Ohio State this past season, but the Terrapins are averaging 46 fewer yards per game on the ground this year.
With McFarland averaging three fewer yards per rush, junior running back Javon Leake has become the Terrapins’ spark plug, both out of the backfield and in the return game.
Leake’s 581 rushing yards on 7.7 per carry leads the team, and his two kickoff return touchdowns are tied for the most in the nation. Leake’s 595 yards on kick returns is No. 7 in the country.
“He’s probably one of the fastest players we’ve went against, if not the fastest,” Fuller said. “We’ve definitely got our hands full.”
The Terrapins have improved their passing attack by 60 yards per game with redshirt junior and Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson under center, but that still leaves them barely inside the top 100 in the country.
Teams that struggle to throw the ball have not fared well against the Buckeyes this season, as Ohio State is allowing the fewest yards through the air in all of college football, at 132.8 per game.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s defense is worse against the pass than any Ohio State opponent thus far, giving up 262.8 yards per game to come in at No. 111 in the country.
On paper, top-rated Ohio State’s ninth-straight demolition job is imminent Saturday, but that doesn’t mean the game is won just yet.
“Sometimes when you get to this time of year, there’s some wacky games out there,” head coach Ryan Day said. “You have to adapt on the move.”