The University of Maryland, recently cast out of the poll's top 20, plays fifth-ranked Penn State Saturday afternoon in Maryland's biggest game of the season and State's biggest game of the week.
While the 7 1/2-point underdog Terrapins spent today's four-hour bus ride dreaming of bowl bids, national rankings and their appearance on live, regional television (WJLA-TV-7 and WJZ-TV-13, 1:30 p.m.), the Nittany Lions went about business as usual. They had the day off.
To them, Maryland is just another fine team out to make its season with a win over Penn State.
"It's something we cope with each week," said flanker Jimmy Cefalo. "It's nothing new."
Howard also faces what may be its toughest challenge of the season when it travels to Orangeburg, S.C., to face defending MEAC champion South Carolina State, a team which beat the Bison, 40-0, last year and appears equally strong this fall.
There also are two important local match-ups. At Georgetown, the Hoyas and Catholic will open their seasons in the second annual Steven Dean Memorial game. Dean, a 1971 Georgetown graduate and sports information director at Catholic, died suddenly last September. Catholic won last year's game, 41-35, after trailing, 29-7.
Gallaudet and the University of the District of Columbia will square off on UDC's home field at Cardozo High School. UDC won it's opener last Saturday at Scranton; Gallaudet will be making its season's debut.
In other games, Virginia and Duke will try to break two-game losing streaks in Charlottesville and Bowie State will be at Liberty Baptist.
The crowd prediction for Maryland-State is 2,000 more than stadium capacity.
Penn State sticks out on Maryland's schedule like a UFO would in a backyard. But State had Houston last week, plays Kentucky next week and Pitt is waiting at the end of the line. It is no wonder the Nittany Lions are true believers in the we-take-'em-one-at-a-time game plan.
"I wouldn't say this is the biggest game of our careers," said Lion Cefalo. "But at this point it's the most important. If we look ahead to Kentucky, we'll get beat tomorrow."
Cefalo, an All-East selection last year who has sold free-lance articles to the New York Times since high school, said the Penn State players are aware that Maryland will take to field emotionally hot-wired.
"Joe (head coach Joe Paterno) always tells us that 99 per cent of football is from the neck up," said Cefalo. "Emotional teams are always hardbeat. Emtional teams are also like to get drained quicker. But they never say die, so it works both ways.
"We are taking them extremely seriously. We've played them enough. I know they're always in the game."
Cefalo had to turn the pages of memory to get the true picture of Maryland's ability, as the recent game [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Penn State saw featured Maryland stumbling to a 21-14 win over Clemson and falling apart against West Virginia, 24-16. But Cefalo said the Penn State offense is well aware of Maryland's defensive capabilities.
"I'm amazed they've even been scored on," said Cefalo, remembering perhaps, the Maryland defense of last year that gave up only 7.7 points a game. "I haven't seen any weaknesses. They have just haven't combined as a [WORD ILLEGIBLE] group yet. As talented as they are, you have to think that one of these weeks they'll put it all together.
"I'm glad we're playing them now, instead of later. Our offense is clicking (averaging 38 points and 513 yards game) and their defense hasn't been good as it's going to be."
Gary Petercuskie, State's third-year [WORD ILLEGIBLE] at safety, said the defense [WORD ILLEGIBLE] "to make their game go outsided and contain (Maryland quarterback) Mark Manges. Manges is dangerous when he reaches the corner because he can run well. We know what they are going to do. We just have to stop them."
While muche adoo is being made about Penn State's "new" wide-open fence. Cefalo insists it isn't new at all. Just better.
"Chuck (Fusina, quarterback) has been outstanding," said Cefalo, instead of trying to throw a 50-yard bomb, he has been great at finding the short dump man.
Stuffed in a trunk somewhere with old press clippings and prom pictures, Cefalo has a letter from Manges. Manges and Cefalo visited schools together then they were being recruited and corresponded after they went their separate ways.
"Mark wrote to me as soon as he signed with Maryland," said Cafalo," and told me how much he'd like to come to Penn State our senior year and beat us here. I've never forgotten that."
Cefalo noted that, in the past, he usually has been able to tell when his [WORD ILLEGIBLE] is about to get upset.
"You just get a feeling that something's not right," said Cefalo. "I haven't had that feeling this week."