(Photo credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)
Ohio State will play its fifth straight undefeated team when the Buckeyes host Maryland on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.
Obviously, with a No. 4 ranking for the Buckeyes (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten), their first four opponents didn't fare well.
The Terrapins (5-0, 2-0) feel they can change that on the strength of quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week.
In a 44-17 win over Indiana last Saturday, Tagovailoa threw for 352 yards and a career-high five touchdowns to go along with a rushing score. The younger brother of Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa ranks 13th all-time in Big Ten passing yards with 9,343.
"He's always been a dynamic player. I mean, he creates offense," Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said. "He has a really strong arm, can make the throws from sideline to sideline. I just think he's a great player, but he's also making good decisions. He hurt us last year with some of his plays.
"He has the ability to extend plays and when you get an extended play the opportunity is there to make an explosive or give up an explosive play."
But it's not only the offense which has enabled the Terrapins to enjoy their first 5-0 start since 2001. While averaging 38.6 points (tied for 15th nationally) they have allowed just 13.2 points per game (16th).
The Buckeyes have defeated Indiana, Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and then-No. 9 Notre Dame, 17-14 in their most recent game on Sept. 23.
It was a coming-of-age outing vs. the Fighting Irish for junior quarterback Kyle McCord, who led the Buckeyes on a 65-yard scoring drive that was capped by a 1-yard TD run by Chip Trayanum for the win with one second left.
During that final series, McCord completed passes for first downs on third-and-10, third-and-19 and fourth-and-7.
"Obviously, he's gotten better every week and that's what you expect with a first-year starter at the quarterback position," Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. "He's taken over a system that is a quarterback-friendly system. He has the intangibles. He has the ability to make all the throws but I thought they've done a really good job of how they've brought him along."
Maryland is used to fast starts with a 12-1 record in September over the past three seasons, only to be a combined 8-10 the rest of the way the past two seasons.
It will be a challenge for the Terps to continue their winning streak with history not on their side in the series against the Buckeyes. They have lost all eight meetings with last season's 43-30 loss in College Park, Md., marking the fewest points they have allowed.
Ohio State is 4-0 at home against the Terps with an average score of 62.5-18.3. The Buckeyes have scored at least 62 points in the past three games in Ohio Stadium vs. Maryland.
"We've got some talented players in our locker room," Locksley said. "And I think it's all about us earning the respect that I think our players feel we deserve."
--Field Level Media