COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Ohio State is finally playing the brand of football necessary to vie for a national championship.
The task now is to sustain the momentum.
Coming off an ego-boosting 62-3 rout of then-No. 10 Nebraska, the sixth-ranked Buckeyes (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten, No. 5 CFP) seek their third straight victory Saturday against backpedaling Maryland.
The Terrapins (5-4, 2-4) have lost four of five, including a 59-3 humiliation last week at Michigan. Throw in the 101 points that Ohio State has scored in its last two games against Maryland, and this shapes up to be a huge mismatch.
The Buckeyes don’t view it that way.
“I don’t take any game for granted or see them as lesser than any other team,” Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett said. “You can get beat any time in the Big Ten. We need to take the same approach against Maryland that we took against Nebraska.”
After getting upset at Penn State on Oct. 22 and squeezing past Northwestern at home the following week, the Buckeyes found their groove against the overmatched Cornhuskers. Barrett threw four touchdown passes, Curtis Samuel accounted for 173 all-purpose yards and Ohio State never called on punter Cameron Johnston.
“We have the capability to do what we did Saturday night. We want to do that every game,” offensive lineman Pat Elflein said. “We want to score a bunch of points. Everything was just clicking on every cylinder Saturday night.”
That spells trouble for a Maryland defense that has yielded 101 points and 1,310 yards over the past two weeks to Indiana and Michigan. The Terrapins have only two senior starters on defense, and it showed against the Wolverines.
“I feel like our guys gave it their best shot and we got hit in the mouth,” defensive coordinator Andy Buh said. “When you play these younger players, these games tend to show your youth a little bit.”
Some other things to know about the third meeting between Ohio State and Maryland:
TOP OF THE HILLS: The Terrapins’ offense relieves heavily on fifth-year senior quarterback Perry Hills, who reinjured his right shoulder at Michigan and is questionable for Saturday. In a 49-28 loss to Ohio State last year, Hills ran for 170 yards — most ever by a Terps quarterback. If Hills can’t go Saturday, senior Caleb Rowe or true freshman Tyrell Pigrome will start. Neither has been effective this season.
WEBER RUNS WILD: Ohio State running back Mike Weber is trying to become the third freshman at the school to rush for 1,000 yards. Robert Smith ran for 1,126 in 1990 and Maurice Clarett rolled up 1,237 in 2002, his only year in college football. Weber has rushed for 842 yards and seven scores. He had 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries last week but left the game in the third quarter after falling hard on his shoulder Coach Urban Meyer said Weber has a sprained shoulder . Weber was held out of contact in practice this week but is expected to play against Maryland.
COACHES REUNION: Maryland first-year coach DJ Durkin was an assistant for Meyer at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and Florida in 2010. “I’m very close with him and I love him to death,” Meyer said. “I love his family. He’s from Youngstown (Ohio). He’s a great guy, great football coach.” The coaches keep their distance during the fall, for competitive reasons and because both coaches are too usually too busy to chit-chat. “We don’t talk too much during the season,” Durkin said. “We’re in the same conference. He’s a friend and a good guy to seek advice from.”
MOVE OVER, BREES: Barrett needs just two more scores to break the Big Ten record of 95 TDs responsible for, set by Drew Brees with Purdue from 1997-2000. “That’s just crazy to think about,” Barrett said this week. “If you would have told me when I was a sophomore in high school that J.T. would be doing this, I would have called you a liar. I wouldn’t have believed you.”
CAN’T STOP NOW: Meyer rarely lets the outside world know what’s happening in the Ohio State locker room, but he made an exception when asked what he told the team this week. “I’ll share a little bit of it with you,” he said. “A group of players made a decision to play very well, and now you can throw that one away if you don’t follow up with another good week of practice and preparation. That’s been the message, to a degree.”