COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Win and avoid catastrophic injuries. Especially CJ Stroud.
If Ohio State fans keep telling themselves that only those two goals — both of which were scored in Maryland on Saturday — count, they can feel better about the narrow 43-30 against the unranked Terrapins. You might even start to think that there is nothing to see here. You know, “We took care of business. These games take place. Other top teams also struggled.”
all true But that doesn’t mean every Who in Whoville, Clintonville, Granville, and Westerville should be singing a happy tune. Because there are what to see here. distorted things.
Yes, I’ll be the Grinch before the whole heart grows into three sizes. Ohio State is flawed. And it’s unclear if cracks in the foundation can be fixed in time to prevent a collapse against Michigan next week or, if the Buckeyes win the game, against opponents with above-average quarterbacks and secondaries that Marvin Harrison Jr. can defend. Emeka Egbuka and Cade Stover. The running game needs work, but with the emergence of newcomer Dallan Hayden (146 yards on 27 carries), that’s more of a yellow warning than a red flag.
bottom line: How did the Buckeyes compare to Maryland? How was OSU’s offense rated?
Maryland, with supremely dangerous QB Taulia Tagovailoa and top-flight defensive backs, possesses just that kind of OSU kryptonite, making it a mystery as to why the Terps are only 6-5 and 3-5 in the Big Ten. The Turtles played the undefeated Buckeyes harder than any other team in 11 games, revealing the aforementioned shortcomings in the process.
Can Michigan Recreate the “Maryland Scenario”? The Wolverines have their own problems, including injuries to backlog Blake Corum, who apparently picked up a knee injury in the 19-17 win over Illinois, and talented backup Donovan Edwards, who didn’t play against the Illini.
True, UM is #2 nationally in pass defense, which means Ohio State probably needs to run the ball well — probably about 200 yards; 40 more than the 160 it rushed for against Maryland. But Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy is a B+ passer at best, not scary enough to mortally wound suspect OSU secondary.
On the other hand, Ohio State’s loss to Michigan might not be the end of the world, at least not if your world begins and ends with simply making the college football playoffs.
Don’t throw me out of Columbus for spewing such blasphemy. just listen to me Given what else happened Saturday, with Tennessee’s loss to South Carolina, it’s not out of the question that the Buckeyes will narrowly lose to Michigan and still make the playoffs, depending on what happens next Saturday.
Not that Ryan Day wants to take that risk, especially after losing to Michigan last November. Successive setbacks against the winged helms would slash open the scar that has remained tender since last year’s 42-27 freefall at Ann Arbor.
“It wasn’t easy,” Day said of living with the UM loss.
The day looked particularly drained after Saturday’s win, but it was hard to tell if his reserved demeanor was caused more by the stress of a close game that stayed open until the closing seconds when linebacker Steele Chambers hit with a stripsack B .through Zach Harrison on the defensive end, or when Day realizes his team isn’t as unbeatable as it seemed against underperforming opponents for most of the season.
Probably both. Regardless, the Ohio State coach, who is 30-0 against unranked teams, walked over worrisome fault lines with a “survive and move forward” mantra that focuses on the bottom line.
“The #1 goal is to win and move on,” he said. “There have been times this year where we’ve had style points and won big, but there will be games where you don’t pop out as quickly as you’d like. We got that first ride going and ‘okay, this is going to be one of those (good) days’ and it wasn’t quite there and there are a few reasons that we need to clean up. But we finished the game the way we should.”
Michigan did the same against Illinois, staging a Showdown in the Shoe for the first time since 2006 with undefeated OSU and UM teams.
But undefeated doesn’t mean perfect. Neither the Buckeyes nor the Wolverines come close. Day can live with some of the warts, at least for the next few days, and explains that what happens Saturday before the Ohio State-Michigan game isn’t always the best barometer of what’s to come.
He mentioned last season’s 56-7 win over No. 7 Michigan.
“It was 49-0 at halftime and Michigan State was a top 10 team and then we lost[to Michigan],” he said. “And then there are times when you hobble into the game and you win the game.”
The horse chestnuts are limping, but Stroud doesn’t sound overly concerned.
“We’re finding ways to win, and that’s all you could ask for,” said the OSU quarterback, who had a bit of spectacular play against the Terrapins, completing 18 of 30 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. “This team is very strong. I love the way we competed against each other tonight, even if it wasn’t pretty. Many games today were not nice. At the end of the day it’s about the next game. It’s about winning.”
The Buckeyes took the dub against Maryland. Mission accomplished. We’ll find out in a moment if they can avoid a serious injury against Michigan.