That Big Ten Feeling?

The Buckeyes open conference play against Maryland Saturday. Considering it's the first-ever meeting between the schools, it doesn't truly feel like a Big Ten opener.

This weekend Ohio State joins Michigan State and Wisconsin as the final three Big Ten teams to play a conference game this season. For the Buckeyes, though, it won’t really feel like a Big Ten game.

Ohio State plays at Maryland Saturday in the first ever conference home game for the Terrapins. Considering it’s the first meeting between the two teams in program history, it doesn’t come with the normal familiarity of a conference opponent.

“No one really has to been to Maryland on this staff I don’t think or any of the trainers, they’ve usually been everywhere,” senior tight end Jeff Heuerman said.

Like the rest of the senior class Heuerman enters his final conference season having played nearly every Big Ten opponent. In addition to the league’s two new members in Maryland and Rutgers, no four-year players have faced Minnesota in their time in Scarlet and Grey. The Buckeyes travel to face the Golden Gophers on Nov. 15.

While current Buckeyes have a handful of conference opponents they have yet to face, no Ohio State player has ever gone up against the Terrapins. The two programs have been playing football for a combined 247 years and never met on the gridiron.

“We’re going to go there and welcome them to the Big Te,” Heuerman said. “It’s going to be a big game and we’re going to show them what Big Ten football is and hopefully it works out in our favor.

“They’re saying it’s one of the biggest games in Maryland history so whatever that means.”

If Saturday truly is the biggest game in Maryland history that would mean it surpasses the 1952 Sugar Bowl. The Terrapins finished the 1951 campaign undefeated and untied and knocked off first-ranked Tennessee in that contest. At that time the wire service released their final rankings before bowl games or Maryland would likely have been crowned national champions. Two seasons later they did secure a national title, though they would lose to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

Saturday will continue a new chapter in Maryland’s program history and while it may not feel like a Big Ten game, the Buckeyes know it counts just the same in the conference standings.

“It’s still a Big Ten opener,” sophomore safety Vonn Bell said. “It’s going to be one of their biggest games, it’s going to be one of our biggest games because we start the Big Ten. It’s going to be Big Ten football.”

The Buckeyes follow the Maryland game with the league’s other newcomer with a home contest against Rutgers. Ohio State plays at Penn State Oct. 25, and seeing as the Nittany Lions have been Big Ten members since 1990, so to the 2014 version of the Buckeyes they feel like a traditional conference opponent. Because of the scheduling quirk, however, Ohio State won’t face a traditional Big Ten team until they host founding member Illinois on Nov. 1, their fourth conference game.

Ohio State isn’t looking that far ahead, however, as they are focused on their first conference game. And while the Terrapins are still adjusting to the league, Heuerman expects a traditional conference challenge.

“It’s Big Ten football,” he said. “Obviously it’s going to be a little different than what we’ve seen so far. We need to go in there with the right mindset.”

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