By: Eddie Hobbs
The Maryland Terrapins are hosting the No. 10 Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend in College Park, Maryland, and after a crushing 34-32 defeat against Indiana, Maryland will look to defeat Ohio State for the first time in program history on Saturday.
Maryland will be without Kasim Hill, who tore his left ACl while attempting a scramble against the Hoosiers. This is the second season in a row that Hill has torn his ACL. Redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome will start in his place.
Pigrome’s style is a little different than Hill’s; the redshirt sophomore is more of dual-threat type of quarterback who can get out in space more often than Hill. Pigrome has 38 rushing attempts this year, and has averaged 4.4 yards per carry. To compare, Hill had 40 rushing attempts before his injury last week, but netted negative 15 total yards and negative 0.4 yards per carry.
The question remains if interim head coach Matt Canada will rely on Pigrome throwing the ball more often over these next two games against Big Ten opponents. Pigrome has only attempted 17 passes this season, 10 of which came in last week’s loss against Indiana.
Ohio State is coming in riding a two-game win streak, eking out a 36-31 win against 2-7 Nebraska, and pulling away from No. 18 Michigan State for a 26-6 win after leading 9-6 heading into the fourth quarter. As of late, the Buckeyes haven’t looked nearly as impressive as they did early in the year, and suffered their first loss of the season against Purdue 49-20 on Oct. 20.
Three Things to Watch
How Will Maryland’s Rushing Attack Look?
It’s no secret that Maryland’s success hinges on its rushing game. When Maryland rushes for over 300 yards, they are 4-1. Anthony McFarland rushed for a career-high 203 yards last week, and the Terps will need everything they can get from their freshman phenom if they want to pull out a victory.
Even with the talented backs that Maryland has this year, there are questions about who will even be suiting up on Saturday. What was once the Terrapins’ deepest position, the group is now starting to get thinned out due to injury. Javon Leake and Ty Johnson are both game-time decisions, and if either don’t play, Canada will be left with McFarland, Tayon Fleet-Davis and Jake Funk. Funk will be active for the second consecutive game after missing eight straight games.
Can Maryland’s Secondary Stop Dwayne Haskins?
Maryland’s defense has kept the team in most games with a bend but don’t break mentality. But, last week against Indiana, Maryland’s secondary was exploited for a couple of big plays. Three of Indiana’s receivers had a reception for 25 or more yards throughout the game, and Peyton Ramsey threw for 243 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Terps issues didn’t stop there, as the secondary committed five pass interference penalties to help the Hoosiers move the ball down the field. And with Heisman Trophy candidate Dwayne Haskins coming to College Park, the Terrapins need to be prepared for Ohio State’s dangerous passing attack.
Haskins has thrown for 3,280 yards this season, completing 68.9 percent of his passes for 33 touchdowns and only six interceptions. His passer rating is through the roof at 165.4 and he has plenty of weapons to work with.
If Maryland has any chance of winning on Saturday, stopping Haskins should be at the top of the list.
Who Will Win the Turnover Battle?
The Terps have turned the ball over six times over their last two games. The biggest mishap came against Indiana on Maryland’s final drive when Pigrome was strip-sacked on Indiana’s 48-yard line. The Terps needed a field goal to beat Indiana and become bowl eligible, but came up just short.
That was one of four turnovers that Maryland had against the Hoosiers, and Maryland cannot afford to cough the ball up that many times against Ohio State. On the other hand, Maryland’s defense has forced at least one turnover in each game they have played this season and leads the nation in interceptions this year with 17.
Haskins has thrown two interceptions in his last three games, and if Maryland can force him into hurried and uncharacteristic throws, the Terps’ offense needs to take advantage of the extra possessions.