Maryland hopes to catch No. 1 Ohio State off guard

Field Level Media

November 06, 2019 at 2:53 am.

Ohio State is rested and ready for the crucial stretch run of the Big Ten schedule. And then, the Buckeyes hope, a run through the College Football Playoff.

After all, they’re the top-ranked team in the CFP rankings.

In the midst of preparing for Maryland, its opponent Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio State on Tuesday learned it is ranked No. 1 in the first CFP rankings of the season. Come Saturday, the Terrapins hope the Buckeyes (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) will be guilty of looking ahead.

After playing Maryland (3-6, 1-5), the Buckeyes play at woeful Rutgers before hosting No. 4 Penn State on Nov. 23 then going to No. 14 Michigan a week later.

But Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah said memories of the Buckeyes’ national championship aspirations being derailed by shocking losses to Iowa in 2017 and Purdue last season are ever present.

“I think it’s really important to maintain that focus just because as we’ve seen in the past, one week can ruin your whole season,” he said. “So, we’re trying to go against Maryland with a fresh mindset and try to end the week 1-0.”

Ohio State coach Ryan Day understands the challenge he faces.

“You’re dealing with 18-, 19-, 20-year old young men,” he said. “You have to make sure you’re on top of them.”

While Maryland was losing 38-7 to Michigan last Saturday, the Buckeyes continued to recover from a bruising victory, also 38-7, over Wisconsin on Oct. 26, during OSU’s second open weekend in October weeks.

Maryland opened the season with a 79-0 win over Howard and a 63-20 win against then-No. 20 Syracuse before the struggles hit.

“We won’t be result-oriented,” Terrapins first-year coach Michael Locksley said. “Nobody said that this was going to be easy.

“We really want to win. That’s the bottom line. We really, really want to win. And we also want to give our players the best possible chance to win. You do that with how you put together game plans, with how you develop your depth, with how you play your players.”

The Terrapins’ belief that they can beat the Buckeyes comes from last season’s home game when heavily favored Ohio State escaped with a 52-51 overtime victory.

A difference this time will be that Ohio State has vastly improved its defense to the point it leads the nation in scoring defense (7.9 points per game) and is second in total defense (224.3 yards per game). The defense has allowed two touchdowns in the past 12 quarters.

“I feel like we have the potential to be the best defense in the country,” OSU defensive lineman Robert Landers said.

The offense isn’t shabby, either. OSU is third in scoring offense (48.3 per game) and sixth in total of offense (514.8 per game).

Maryland has two players the Buckeyes will keep an eye on.

Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. had 298 yards on 21 carries with touchdowns of 81 and 75 yards in the first six minutes against the Buckeyes last season.

Fellow running back Javon Leake had his third career kickoff return for a TD, second this season, when he went 97 yards vs. Michigan.

Highlights like that are fleeting for Maryland, however.

“Consistency is critical, and we’re still a work in progress,” Locksley said.