Free Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Maryland Terrapins
Ohio State Buckeyes (9-1 SU, 4-6 ATS) vs. Maryland Terrapins (5-5 SU, 5-5 ATS)
College Football Week 12
Date and Time: Saturday, November 17 at 12pm ET
Where: Capital One Field
Point Spread: OSU -14.5/MD +14.5
Over/Under Total: 58.5
The College Football Playoff is the most exclusive tournament in all of sport and the week-to-week demand to remain alive for that final-four means no team can take afford a slip. Ohio State couldn’t navigate the landmine in West Lafayette, and the Buckeyes are on the outside looking in as they tangle with Maryland this weekend. OSU has a date with Michigan ahead that will determine who goes to Indy out of the Big Ten East, but they must take care of business against the Terps. Maryland has had its season marred by controversy, but OC and interim coach Matt Canada has done well to keep the players focused, and the Terrapins enter at 5-5. They will need a win against OSU or Penn State next weekend to earn a bowl berth, and they must do so without starting QB Kasim Hill who tore his ACL last week.
Since joining the Big Ten, Maryland has not fared well against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won all four games since 2014, including 62-3 and 62-14 drubbings in the last two seasons. OSU has reached at least 49 points in each contest, helping the over go 4-0 in that span and Maryland has just one ATS win in the series. The 14.5 points that Ohio State has to give is the second smallest total since the 6.5 point line in the 2014 game. The Buckeyes are just 1-5 against the spread in their last six conference games, but the Terrapins are only 1-4 ATS in their previous five at home against a winning opponent.
Maryland has failed to find consistent production on offense this season and enters the week 101st in total yards per game. Their 28.8 points per game doesn’t seem too bad, but they have averaged just 11.6 points in their last three losses. The run game success is undeniable as UMD ranks 18th at 234 yards per game with Anthony McFarland and Ty Johnson north of seven yards per carry. Those two are the primary ball carriers, but the Terps bring some versatility with 16 rushing touchdowns outside of their primary backs. The running game has not been able to cover for a passing game that averages just 131 yards per game. Tyrrell Pigrome will get the start in place of the injured Hill, and Pigrome did some nice thing against Indiana, going 10-of-13 for 146 yards and a score in just about a half. There will need to be some contribution from the passing game as the OSU defense is better at stopping the run than anything else. Pigrome is a shifty runner, so perhaps he can make some plays on the move, but this is going to be a tall task given he has just 31 pass attempts on the season.
Keep the Focus
There is no shortage of speculation that Ohio State is going to overlook Maryland with Michigan just a week away, but this spread isn’t so large that the Buckeyes need to be perfect to cover. They could play flat for a quarter or even more and still push past the Terps as they eventually did against Michigan State last week. Without Nick Bosa, OSU is not sporting a championship defense but their offense is still 10th in total yards, 11th in scoring and Dwayne Haskins is averaging 354 passing yards per game. Maryland has been good against the pass, allowing less than 200 yards per game, but this is a step up in skill position talent. Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill are the best duo of wide receivers that UMD will have faced with the pair combining for 1,406 yards and 13 touchdowns so far. Maryland has been able to limit several QBs, but they have done so at the expense of their ability to run stop in those games. In losses to Iowa and Michigan State, Maryland didn’t even give up 100 yards passing but was simply pushed around on the ground. Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins can grind down the Terps in the same way if UMD sells out to stop Haskins and the pass game.
After the loss to Purdue and a very shaky win against Nebraska, a lot of the shine has come off of Ohio State. Urban Meyer’s potential future with the team has been a distraction, and the seeming lack of playoff chances have many overlooking the Buckeyes. Some of that is certainly deserved as OSU has not looked top-notch against the lesser teams in the Big Ten, but Maryland has plenty of the same issues. Off the field, issues have plagued the team, and it seems like a lifetime ago that the Terps knocked off a then 15th ranked Texas team. Maryland has struggled with pro-style teams that have solid line play, and Ohio State fits that bill. The Buckeyes average over 31 minutes with the ball and Maryland is just over 28 on average. UMD has only sacked the QB 15 times so far, and the OSU line has kept Haskins clean for the most part. It looks like Maryland is going to have to square straight up with Ohio State this weekend and that isn’t a good scenario given the talent discrepancy.
If Ohio State had to give up 21 or 24 points as it has in years past, I would suggest that Maryland could play keep away with their run game and stay in the game so long as they didn’t give up big plays. The two touchdown spread just doesn’t hold up as well, and the QB change in Maryland is not a net-positive to their competitive chances. Ohio State can take the run away like they just did against Michigan State, leaving Maryland’s offense in Pigrome’s hands. The Terps do not have a 300-yard receiver to this point and their ability to score late or come from behind to cover suffers as a result. I think the OSU hate has gone a little too far and they should be able to distance themselves in this one, even with an average effort. I’ll give the Terps a good chance to hang for a while, but the Buckeyes get rolling in the second half en route to a 34-16 win.
Ohio State at Maryland Prediction 11/17/18
Ted’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Ohio State