Maryland (4-1) takes on Ohio State (3-1) Oct. 4 at noon at Byrd Stadium. In order to gain more insight into the Buckeyes, we spoke to BuckeyeSports.com publisher Jeff Svoboda.
Here's our Q&A session with him:
Terrapin Times: It looks like Ohio State is really hitting its stride now, especially offensively. Has the offense turned a corner under J.T. Barrett? What concerns do they still have in general?
Jeff Svoboda: Ohio State has looked like it has turned a corner in the last two games, though no one is confusing Kent State or Cincinnati with the 1985 Bears (though teams have been trying to use that squad's "Bear" front to stack the middle to shut down OSU's running game). Barrett has been very impressive so far for a redshirt freshman. He missed some reads against Virginia Tech but has proved to be a gritty customer (the slide does not appear to be in his repertoire) and has been very impressive the last two games, becoming the first Buckeye since Troy Smith to throw for 300 yards on consecutive games. He's known as "The Distributor" at Ohio State for his ability to find the open target, and he's hit at least 10 different receivers in each of the last two games. There are still some concerns, though. How will Barrett fare if a team can get a solid pass rush on him, especially considering the team still has an unproven offensive line? And there are lingering concerns about the skill position players, who didn't really help Barrett out against Virginia Tech by losing some one-on-one battles, albeit against a very good secondary.
TT:I know OSU typically travels well. How many thousands of Buckeye fans should we expect in College Park? Do they seem more or less interested considering UMD is a new opponent?
JS: I think there will be a solid Ohio State presence in College Park. There are a ton of OSU alums in the DC area -- I know a few coming to the game, actually -- and there was a big OSU contingent at the opener against Navy in Baltimore. Maybe the fact that those fans already got to see OSU this year will cut down on the number of fans in Byrd Stadium, but I still expect close to 10,000 there. Simply put, Buckeye Nation travels, and OSU fans generally fill out half of the stadium when the team travels to places like Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana. I don't see why Maryland will be any different. I don't get a huge sense that the fans are tremendously excited about either Maryland or Rutgers but I still think there will be a fair amount of Buckeyes at this game.
TT:Ohio State has a definite recruiting presence in this area. How much of a priority does the OSU staff place on the Maryland-D.C. area? And is it possible for UMD or a school like Maryland to have more of a presence in Ohio, especially for some of those big linemen up there, that the Buckeyes and Wolverines seem to have a stranglehold on?
JS: I think Ohio State does have a pretty good interest in recruiting strongly on the East Coast, something that they've established with the hiring of former Penn State assistant Larry Johnson, who is a noted recruiter of the DC/Virginia area. The Buckeyes got recruits from New York, New Jersey and Virginia in the 2014 class, and the '15 crew includes commitments from Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland, as DeMatha safety Tyler Green is a part of the class. I think OSU will continue to recruit the area strongly given the Big Ten's eastward expansion and the relatively short travel times from Columbus to the East Coast. I think Maryland could go the other way and do the same, especially since Ohio has enough D-I talent to spare even after Michigan and Ohio State go after the top guys. But there are a lot of Big Ten schools and even schools like Kentucky with a presence in Ohio, so it's a tough market.
TT:What's something about OSU that maybe folks wouldn't be able to pick up just by watching film? Like, are there any unheralded X-factors? Hidden tendencies? Intangibles?
JS: This is a good question. This is a team that even right now, in a year in which its ability to distribute the ball is thought to be the backbone of the offense, that still reverts to the power run game when it feels it is in trouble. That worked quite well last year when Carlos Hyde and Braxton Miller teamed up, but it's still a question with a rebuilt O-line and Ezekiel Elliott as the main back. Defensively, this is a team still getting used to its press quarters defensive plan, which led to three long TDs by Cincinnati last week. A big key this week will be seeing how the Buckeyes adjust and whether they will be able to keep Maryland's offense from breaking big plays.
TT:Expectations are always high for OSU, obviously. Given that, how do fans view the program right now? Are they generally please with Urban Meyer or are they operating with a "championship or bust" mentality?
JS: think Ohio State is in a weird spot right now in some ways. I think most of the fan base -- there is a segment of the fan base that is only happy when it rains -- is satisfied with Meyer, as the program is 26-3 in his tenure. But there was a point earlier this year after the Virginia Tech game where the team was 1-3 in its last four games, and there were some major concerns about the direction things were going. Two wins have calmed that a bit, but people are still very worried about the pass defense, though I think it's gonna get better as the season goes on. I think fans view the program as one that is still a step below some of the best in the country, especially since Braxton Miller was injured and all the expectations for what could have been a playoff-bound season were blown up, but panic isn't quite setting in on the whole.
Behind Enemy Lines: Ohio State
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