College football: Ohio State will take final step before Michigan

Going into Saturday’s game at Maryland, Ohio State has never lost in seven games against the Terrapins since they joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Other than a 52-51 overtime win at Maryland in 2018, it hasn’t been close. The Buckeyes have won the other six Big Ten games between the two schools by 59 points twice, 49 points, 48 points, 28 points and 21 points.

The recruiting competition between the two programs has been just as one-sided. Since 2014, Ohio State has signed 25 5-star recruits and 135 4-star recruits. Maryland has signed three 5-star recruits and 33 4-stars.

For today’s game to be close or even a scare for the Buckeyes, the Maryland team that started the season 4-1 and came within seven points of Michigan in Ann Arbor in a 34-27 loss would have to show up.

The Maryland team which has gone 2-3 since then doesn’t appear ready to challenge OSU.

Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa is the engine that powers Maryland’s offense. But the engine needs to be refueled, or maybe recharged.

Before Tagovailoa suffered a strained knee ligament late in a win over Indiana, Maryland averaged 34 points a game and he averaged 285.8 yards a game passing.

After not playing in a win over Northwestern and having a bye week, Tagovailoa returned for a 23-10 loss to Wisconsin and a 30-0 loss to Penn State the last two weeks. In those games, he completed 47 percent of his passes for an average of 75.5 yards a game and was sacked 12 times.

He claims he feels good but the numbers might say otherwise.

The big question for Ohio State is also of the medical variety. It needs to know which of its running backs will be healthy enough to play.

Last week in a 56-14 win over Indiana, TreVeyon Henderson and Chip Trayanum were unavailable with unspecified injuries and Miyan Williams suffered a leg injury in the second quarter and did not return.

Freshman Dallan Hayden rushed for 102 yards on 19 carries and Xavier Johnson broke loose for a 71-yard touchdown run against the Hoosiers.

OSU coach Ryan Day has sounded optimistic that at least some of the injured running backs could return this week. But for some of them it could be a game day decision.

It will be interesting to see which OSU running backs play this week and if anyone might be held out in the hope that they’ll be healthy and ready to play against Michigan next week.

Maryland is tenth in the Big Ten in rushing defense and passing defense, so there ought to be a lot of ways for Ohio State to score whoever lines up in the backfield. And, with an apparently limited Tagovailoa, Maryland probably isn’t going to score a ton of points.

Ohio State should go into the match-up with Michigan next Saturday with an 11-0 record.

The prediction: Ohio State 42, Maryland 20.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.