Maryland last test for No. 2 Ohio State before Michigan

Ohio State football coach Ryan Day has two goals for his team Saturday at Maryland.

He wants the second-ranked Buckeyes to beat the Terrapins and be playing their best football heading into the season finale against Michigan.

“I think that we can play better in all three phases, we’re going to have to go reach our goals,” Day said. “So this is a constant chase towards being the best version of ourselves. And every week that’s the goal is just to get better, and how fast can we get better in certain areas? I think I’ve shared with you the challenge sometimes is the issues are there. They may not get exposed every week. But you’ve got to identify what those issues are. And that’s the art of coaching.”

Here are five things to know about Ohio State’s 11th game of the season:

1. This could be the biggest tests yet for Ohio State’s revamped defense.

Before getting held to a combined 10 points the last two weeks, Maryland was third in the Big Ten in scoring behind Ohio State and Michigan.

Now the Terrapins are seventh, but they still have a talented group of skill players headlined by quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa and receivers Rakim Jarrett and Dontay Demos Jr.

“The quarterback is a really good scrambler and playmaker,” Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. “Maybe he’s a little banged up and that’s why they’ve struggled a little bit but I think everything flows through him and he’s dangerous. And they have skilled guys at wide receiver and the tight end position, their one-two targets. So in a spread attack, they’re dangerous. I can see why they played well. Maybe recently they haven’t, but when you look at the totality of the season, it gives you reason to believe you better be prepared.”

2. Knowles does not seem to care regardless.

Ohio State is in the national top 10 in scoring defense, total defense and passing defense, but the Buckeyes have not exactly faced a murderer’s row of offenses.

With the Michigan game still out there looming, it doesn’t really matter to Knowles either way.

“I don’t really look at rankings or anything like that, truly, until the end of the year because that’s the only thing really — when you look back and kind of see how you held up against other people,” Knowles said. “So you just have to take it week to week with whoever you’re playing and have great habits that turn into a lifestyle, demeanor and attitude.

“It’s the same thing no matter what no matter who you’re playing or what they rank, and if you ever look past somebody because they don’t have the right ranking, you’re in trouble. So I like our progress. We still have a lot of work to accomplish, but I like what we’ve done so far.”

3. Maryland head coach Mike Locksley had his team do some soul-searching this week.

After getting handled by Wisconsin and blasted by Penn State, the Terps had a team meeting that produced a message that pleased the fourth-year head coach.

“What I got and what I saw was that the culture of this team is heading in the direction that we want it to head into because I saw a lot of kids stand up and take accountability for their play,” Locksley told reporters in College Park.

“We took the next step with the way our players responded because they’re not happy about how they played. And then they took accountability the same way I do as the leader of the program.”

4. Locksley wants his team to get after C.J. Stroud.

Maryland is only 75th in the nation in sacks per game (2.1), but he sees rushing Ohio State’s quarterback as a key to victory Saturday.

“The games that they have lost over the years here that I’ve had a chance to evaluate, they’ve been able to get the quarterback on the ground and effectively create problems for him,” Locksley said. “He’s the guy that makes that thing go, and he’s a special player, so we’re going to do some things where we can try to affect this quarterback.”

5. Day wants to continue building a balanced offense.

Ohio State will probably always lean on the quarterback as long as Day is the head coach, but he and his staff have made a concerted effort to be able to beat teams in multiple ways this season after being historically pass-heavy in 2021.

He admitted that might have led him to being too stubborn when it comes to trying to run the ball against stacked fronts on short-yardage situations, but Day hopes it all pays off in the end.

“We’ve worked hard this year to have multiple personnel groupings,” Day said. “We have multiple ways to attack you within those those groupings — vertically, horizontally — and when you can do that and you feel like you have weapons on the outside and you’re in one-on-one situations you’ve got a great chance to be explosive. The minute they have to go double them or help them, then that opens up the run game.

“So when you find that balance, I think that’s where we’re at our strength, and I feel like we’ve worked hard on having that balance.”


Ohio State at Maryland, 3:30 p.m., ABC, 1410

About the Author