By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS – Even the fast food restaurants are becoming a little concerned.
There is a Taco Bell on Kenny Road near Ohio State’s Scarlet Golf Course which posts its prediction for OSU’s football game on the upcoming Saturday on a marquee in front of the store every week.
Most weeks, they go big. They super-size their prediction, you might say, and predict something like Ohio State winning 51-7.
But this week with Maryland, possibly the worst team Ohio State has faced so far this season, coming to town, they went conservative and called it Ohio State 38, Maryland 20.
The expectation – which may or may not have been realistic – was that No. 1 OSU was going to be a dominant running team, a dominant passing team and a dominant defensive team that would roll through its first 10 opponents before facing two tough tests at the end of the regular season against Michigan State and Michigan.
Ohio State (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) has the record everyone expected going into today’s noon game against Maryland (2-3, 0-1 Big Ten). It has won 18 games in a row and has not lost a regular-season Big Ten game with Urban Meyer as coach.
But the Buckeyes have not yet put together four quarters of dominant offense and defense. A 34-27 win over Indiana and a 20-13 decision against Northern Illinois were too close for comfort.
Is that something to worry about? Yes and no.
At this point in the season last fall Ohio State was not yet a dominant team, either. But, on the other hand, that team didn’t have the experience of winning the Big Ten championship game, beating Alabama and winning the national championship against Oregon like this one does.
A blowout is what OSU is looking for and Maryland just might be the opponent to do that against.
When the Terrapins lose, they lose big. Bowling Green beat them 48-27. West Virginia rolled over them 45-6 two weeks ago and Michigan was a 28-0 winner against them last Saturday.
Some reports say Maryland coach Randy Edsall could be fired soon. If their quarterback situation were any bigger dumpster fire, the flames could be seen from space.
Their three quarterbacks have thrown 15 interceptions. Starter Caleb Rowe has thrown 12 interceptions and four touchdown passes and might be replaced by Oklahoma State transfer Daxx Garman today.
Not surprisingly, Maryland ranks last nationally in turnovers with 17 in five games.
But turnovers also are a big part of the reason Ohio State has not been the smoothly running machine it was predicted to be. The Buckeyes’ 13 turnovers have them ahead of only Maryland in the Big Ten in that category.
Ezekiel Elliott almost single-handedly saved the Buckeyes from themselves last week when he ran for 274 yards and touchdowns of 55 yards, 65 yards and 75 yards while his teammates were turning the ball over three times.
No one would say Ohio State has played as well as expected this season. But when back-to-back games of more than 500 yards on offense are viewed as unsatisfactory, the standard has been set pretty high.
The same goes for quarterback Cardale Jones. He has thrown for 288 yards and 245 yards in his last two games but many people want to replace him with J.T. Barrett. When he passed for similar numbers — 257, 243 and 242 yards — in OSU’s three postseason games last season, he was the toast of Columbus.
What Ohio State is facing in Maryland is a team whose most dangerous scoring threat might be punt returner William Likeley, who has scored on two long returns already this season. This might be the week OSU gets a dominant performance.
The prediction: Ohio State 42, Maryland 10.
Reach Jim Naveau at (567) 242-0414 or follow him on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.
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