COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio State thinks it has problems with turnovers, red zone woes and penalties, but the defending national champions are undefeated and looking pretty good compared to Maryland.
Maryland has lost its past two games to West Virginia and Michigan by a combined 73-6 score and is nearly a five-touchdown underdog against the Buckeyes.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall is under pressure. The university issued a statement Thursday saying, “Randy Edsall is our head football coach and he’ll be on the sidelines Saturday against Ohio State.”
Edsall must decide whether Daxx Garman, Perry Hills or Caleb Rowe will be the starting quarterback for the Terrapins (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten).
“We’ll know that when we take the field on Saturday,” Edsall said.
Hills started the first two games before Rowe made the next three starts, including a 28-0 loss to Michigan in which Maryland had 105 total yards. Rowe has completed 44 percent of his passes and has thrown for four touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Terrapins have been intercepted 15 times in all.
Although Maryland was throttled by Michigan, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has a different perspective on the Terrapins.
“They were down 6-0 at halftime to our rival,” he said. “They play really hard. I see exceptional athletes at the offensive skill positions, exceptional athletes on the defense.
“We will get Maryland’s best shot. That’s the way it is.”
Meyer is more concerned with getting the top-ranked Buckeyes (5-0, 1-0) on track offensively. The days of pundits predicting Ohio State would average 60 points a game are distant memories after failing to score more than 38 in any of the past four games.
Quarterback Cardale Jones has put up good numbers, completing 18 of 27 for 274 yards in the 34-27 win vs. Indiana last week, but neither he nor backup J.T. Barrett have thrown a TD pass while in the red zone.
That’s one reason the Buckeyes have only six TDs in 16 trips inside the 20. Meyer is trying to divert the pressure of high expectations.
“Our focus is not to be perfect. It’s to play as hard as we possibly can,” he said.
Here are some things to watch as Ohio State goes for its 19th straight victory and 26th consecutive Big Ten regular-season win.
GIVE HIM THE BALL: Meyer wants running back Ezekiel Elliott to get about 25 carries a game. Elliott fell two short of the goal vs. Indiana, but his coach didn’t mind because the opportunities were limited after Elliott had touchdown runs of 55, 65 and 75 yards in the second half.
“He’s a young man that has tremendous speed, good explosion,” Edsall said. “You’ve got to tackle him, you just can’t run into him.”
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: A highlight in a trying season for the Terrapins has been the punt returning of cornerback William Likely. He leads the nation in punt return touchdowns with two and ranks fourth in average (24.0 yards). Likely broke a Big Ten record in the season opener against Richmond when he totaled 233 return yards on eight punts.
“They have the best punt returner in America, a guy that we have to get on the ground,” Meyer said.
Edsall knows Likely is special.
“He’s a weapon,” he said. “We think, and he feels, every time he touches the ball he can take it the distance.”
BUCKING HISTORY: The Terrapins, playing in Ohio Stadium for the first time, are 2-3 when playing the No. 1 team. They last defeated the reigning national champion on Nov. 10, 1984, when rallying from a 31-0 halftime deficit to beat Miami 42-40 in the Orange Bowl.
RECEIVING PRAISE: Ohio State’s quarterback-turned-hybrid back Braxton Miller had only two touches for a net of five yards against Indiana; a far cry from his two-touchdown, 140-yard performance in the season opener against Virginia Tech.
“The defense directs where the ball goes,” Meyer said. “You can’t say throw it to him, you just can’t do that. What if he’s covered?”
He noted for the Indiana game, Miller was graded at the highest level by the coaches for his blocking and pass routes.
“The Virginia Tech game he did not, so think about it,” Meyer said. “So the positive is he’s heading in that direction to be a full-time receiver.”