Ohio State football: Grading Buckeyes after win vs Maryland
Appearing at No. 1 in the most important set of rankings — those of the College Football Playoff committee — was not too large of a burden for Ohio State to bear.
The Buckeyes proved that on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. They routed Maryland 73-14, racing to a 42-0 halftime lead and sitting pretty much all of the starters in the second half.
OSU (9-0 overall, 6-0 Big Ten) took a step closer to another Big Ten Championship Game appearance, especially after Penn State lost to Minnesota. That result gave the Buckeyes a clear one-game lead in the division with three games remaining.
The Buckeyes did not miss a beat without star defensive end Chase Young (we’ll get to that later) and did what was expected against the undermanned Terrapins (3-7, 1-6).
Here are 5 things I liked and 3 things I didn’t as we grade Ohio State’s performance against Maryland.
5 things I liked
Defense’s production: Tyreke Smith stepped up at defensive end with Chase Young out suspended and had 2 sacks and 3 tackles. That was typical on the day for a Buckeyes defense which held Maryland to 139 total yards while piling up 7 sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Inventive onside kick: With OSU up 14-0 after scoring a touchdown, Buckeyes kicker Blake Haubeil lined up for the ensuing kickoff and blooped a perfect onside kick along the right sideline. Chris Olave was waiting just like he was anticipating a pass to drop and recovered the kick without a Terrapin near him. It was perfect execution which left Fox play-by-play announcer wondering if he had ever seen such a kick:
Chugunov bouncing back: Backup quarterback Chris Chugunov entered the game to start the second half and fumbled on his first possession, turning the ball over to the Terrapins deep in Maryland territory. That ended a perfect string for the OSU offense — except for a kneeldown to end the first half, the Buckeyes had scored 6 touchdowns on 6 first-half drives.
But Buckeyes linebacker K’Vaughan Pope intercepted Tyrell Pigrome’s pass on the very next play. Chugunov, given a second chance, hit Garrett Wilson two plays later for a 14-yard touchdown and a 49-0 lead. Chugunov, a West Virginia transfer, had 103 yards passing, his most in an OSU uniform.
Wide receiver play: Wilson, Olave and Jameson Williams represent the next wave of great OSU receivers who will most likely become the top targets for Justin Fields in the 2020 season. They are well on their way after the game against the Terrapins, in which those three combined for 13 catches for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns. But not to be outdone, senior Binjimen Victor made a tremendous catch with a Maryland defender draped all over him (pictured) and senior K.J. Hill had 4 catches for 56 yards and a TD.
Bit of history: Saturday’s blowout marked the first time since 1973 that OSU has a streak of nine consecutive victories by 20 or more points. The closest games in this year’s streak were a pair of 24-point wins, over Florida Atlantic and Michigan State.
3 things I didn’t like
Chase Young missing: We’ll leave the debates over NCAA rules, proper conduct, correct punishment and compliance for others to dissect. But here is the bottom line: Superstar OSU defensive lineman Chase Young missed at least this game and perhaps will miss others while suspended for accepting a loan from a person Young calls a family friend. Young’s claim is that it happened when he was a freshman and that he paid it back; according to reports, if he can prove that he paid it back he will not be suspended for long.
Whatever the NCAA turns up, the one thing for sure is that Young is the most dynamic defensive player in the nation and that OSU is ever so slightly less fun to watch when he is not on the field.
Too many penalties: The fact that OSU gave up 14 meaningless points when the outcome was long since decided will be quickly forgotten. What should not be forgotten is that the Buckeyes committed 13 penalties for 141 yards, both season highs. Of Maryland’s 16 first downs, 6 came via penalty. That’s inexcusable.
Many of the penalties were silly, such as Zach Harrison’s unsportsmanlike conduct call, or the personal foul by Alex Williams for hitting Josh Jackson well after the Terps quarterback released a pass. The latter call led to Maryland’s first touchdown on the next play.
“Unfortunately he gets the sack and they called the unsportsmanlike because he flexed over the quarterback,” OSU coach Ryan Day said of Harrison’s penalty. “That was a learning lesson for Zach and we have to look at some of those penalties because the amount of penalties today was embarrassing. So we’ve got to get that fixed.”
Losing more traditional matchups: Does Ohio State really have to play Maryland and Rutgers every year just because they are in the same division? There is no tradition to speak of concerning the Big Ten’s two newest programs and, while the Buckeyes have never lost to either team since they joined the B1G for the 2014 season, these games hurt OSU’s strength of schedule.
I say abolish divisions. In a 14-team league each program should have three permanent opponents that they play every year and rotate the other 10 teams — five of them in home-and-home games in consecutive years, then the other five schools in home-and-homes in consecutive years. That way each team would play all the others at least twice in each four-year window, for 8 conference games (not 9!) per year. The vast majority of traditional in-conference rivalries would be maintained and, in OSU’s case, they would play traditional B1G foes such as Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois more often.
The Buckeyes would still see Maryland and Rutgers as well — just not every year.