No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan are on a collision course in the Big Ten East and the trajectory of their championship itineraries is unlikely to be decided this week.
The Buckeyes are focusing on making fixes on Saturday at Maryland, and coach Ryan Day is fixed on making sure Ohio State keeps its focus on the task at hand.
Based on the 340 yards gained on the ground against Indiana, it would appear the running game for the Buckeyes would be the least of its concerns.
The assumption would be wrong because the health of running backs TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and Chip Trayanum lingers as a question mark for the Buckeyes (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten) with the game at Maryland (6-4, 3-4) on Saturday the last before the showdown with the rival Wolverines in Columbus on Nov. 26.
Day said Tuesday he was optimistic his backs were close to returning.
“We feel like we have a really good chance to get all three of those guys back for next week,” Day said. “Maybe one of them won’t, but I’d be shocked if all three would not be available. Hopefully we’ll get at least two of them back and go from there.”
Williams rushed for 147 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown, before exiting with a lower leg injury late in the second quarter vs. the Hoosiers. He started a second straight game with Henderson out with a nagging foot injury.
Henderson also missed games against Rutgers and Northwestern and exited early vs. Toledo and Michigan State. Meanwhile, Williams sat out the Michigan State game and had two carries against Penn State before an injury ended his day.
Freshman Dallan Hayden has been picking up the slack and against the Hoosiers he ran for 102 yards, but the depth behind him is precarious.
Trayanum played for Arizona State until transferring in January. He was converted to a linebacker for the Buckeyes but after running back Evan Pryor sustained a season-ending knee injury before the season, he began practicing with the offense. Another back, TC Caffey, is out for the season as well.
Unfortunately for Trayanum, he was injured and unable to play in the Indiana game. He has one carry for nine yards this season.
The Buckeyes had to get creative. Wide receiver Xavier Johnson lined up in the backfield and ran for a 71-yard touchdown vs. the Hoosiers.
“There’s a lot of variables that come into play, and the only way to do that is to build a tremendous amount of depth,” Day said.
The Terrapins lost to Wisconsin 23-10 and Penn State 30-0 in their past two games but Maryland coach Mike Locksley is hoping to catch the Buckeyes looking ahead to Michigan.
“As I told our team, there’s nothing more dangerous than a desperate man that has nothing to lose. That’s kind of where we are,” he said. “They’ve got everything to lose. They’ve got a big game after ours.”
In order for Maryland to pull the upset, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa needs to get back on track. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,152 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions this season but in the past two games he has thrown for 77 and 74 yards, respectively, with a 46.6 completion rate.
Tagovailoa was also sacked seven times by the Nittany Lions.
“The thing that jumped out for this game,” Locksley said, “is that I felt we got out-toughed, and that’s personal for me.”
–Field Level Media