Chance to beat Michigan rests with Haskins

Staff Writer
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. showed improved running ability against Maryland. [Brooke LaValley]

Saturday: Ohio State 52, Maryland 51, OT

Next game: Ohio State vs. Michigan

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Ohio Stadium

TV: Fox (Channel 28)

Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)

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It’s a flashback to yesteryear as Ohio State and Michigan clash in The Game with everything riding — everything, that is, in the Big Ten East.

In the polls/CFP

Coming off the 52-51 overtime win at Maryland, the one-loss Buckeyes dropped two spots in the coaches poll to No. 10. OSU fell one spot to 10th in the Associated Press media poll. The Buckeyes were No. 10 in last week’s College Football Playoff rankings, and it will be interesting to see whether the committee feels the same about them as the pollsters. That’s called a consensus.

What’s not hot?

According to the polls, it’s the Buckeyes’ marquee value. When the opponent has as many offensive highlights as Ohio State does this late in the season, the conclusion is OSU does not have a championship defense. With freshman running back Anthony McFarland treating it like a treadmill (298 yards on 21 carries, two of them 81 and 75 touchdown sprints), the Terps averaged 8.62 yards on their 62 offensive plays.

Who is hot?

Quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who now owns the OSU season record for passing yards (3,685) and shares the mark for passing touchdowns (36). But along with his 405 passing yards and three TD tosses at Maryland, he ran like never before with 59 yards on 15 carries, including three for TDs. Steering the Buckeyes back from three 14-point deficits, it’s difficult to imagine them having the wherewithal without him. Of course, running back J.K. Dobbins also chipped in a career-high 203 yards rushing to the 688-yard offensive day.

Whose seat is hot?

Defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s, what with big-play gaffes are haunting the defense. Deep pass completions are going to happen; they’re a 50-50 proposition. But inside zone plays, outside sweeps and stretch plays going the distance 11 games into a season — McFarland and the Terps were channeling Michigan’s Tim Biakabatuka (313 yards in the upset of previously unbeaten OSU in 1995). Those leave lasting scars.

Dinged up

Terry McLaurin (head bump), who had a 68-yard touchdown catch, and left tackle Thayer Munford (unspecified lower leg injury), left the game and did not return, and running back Mike Weber (quadriceps bruise) dressed but didn’t play, but coach Urban Meyer indicated all three should be available Saturday. He also expects backup middle linebacker Baron Browning to answer the bell after missing the past two games.

Catch that?

Two days removed, which is more palatable? “You’re saying your team scored 52 points but only won by one?” Or “You’re saying your team scored 51 points and got beat by one?”

Up next

Michigan, which has developed into the best team of the four-year Jim Harbaugh era. The Wolverines are No. 1 nationally in total defense (234.8 yards per game), No. 4 in defense against the score (13.5 points). For the first time under Harbaugh they are a consistent threat offensively due to the play of quarterback Shea Patterson.

This week’s challenge

Ohio State is No. 2 nationally in total offense (541 yards per game). As inconsistent — sometimes just bad — as the Buckeyes’ defense has been, the win Saturday still will come down to who scores the most points. Having Haskins and the passing game gives OSU a puncher’s chance.