Maryland, whose football season seemed beyond redempton three week ago, faces North Carolina Saturday. A victory would take the Terps a long way toward at least a share of their fourth straight Atlantic Coast Conference title and give them a good shot at a fifth straight bowl bid.
The re-emergence of the Terps has coincided with the rejuvenation of tailback Steve Atkins. The Terps have posted three straight wins for a 3-1 ACC record and 4-3 overall record.
Atkins again is running with the authority that made him one of the nation's best backs before a knee injury sidelined him early last season. He has rushed 79 times for 350 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games, while quarterbacks Larry Dick has completed 26 of 40 passes for 495 yards in the same span.
Now, Maryland runs into a first-place Carolina team (2-0) that has not played Maryland, Clemson or Duke. A Maryland victory would mean that the Terps only would have to beat Virginia to assure a tie for the league title.
In the ACC, the league championship is determined on percentage alone. So, if Maryland and Carolina tied, or if Maryland and Clemson tied, the two teams would be cochampions even though the Terps would hold a victory over each.
Clemson has won six in a row since a season-opening loss to Maryland. The Tigers play North Carolina Nov. 5 and Maryland fans will be rooting for a tie. That is the only way the Terps could win the title outright if they beat North Carolina this week.
North Carolina is the only serious roadblock in Maryland's last four games. The Terp finish with Villanova, Richmond and Virginia and eight wins got them bowl bids in 1973, 1974 and 1975.
Meanwhile, on the national scene, Texas is ready to take over the No. 1 ranking in both polls as top-ranked Michigan and No. 4 Southern California both stumbled badly on Saturday.
Michigan was shut out by Minnesota 16-0, at Minnepolis and Wolverine coach Bo Schembeckler, easily put the loss into perspective.
"We played poorly. They played well," he said. "It was the poorest offensive game we've ever played. They deserved to win."
Minnesota is not patsy this season. The Gophers are 5-2, but are nowhere near the quality of Minnesota teams of the past that won six national titles and won or shared 16 Big 10 crowns. Coach Cal Stoll made sure his players knew about the school's history.
"It was the greatest victory I've ever experienced," said Stoll. "I had (assistant coach) Butch Nash talk to the players Friday night about the Nagurskis and the Minnesota glories of the past. I think it was very important to us. Our players threw their hearts out there on the field."
At South Bend, Ind., Notre Dame, a preseason selection for national champion, clobbered South Cal, 49-19, in a game as lopsided as the score.
Emotions also played a big part here, and beleaguered Irish coach Dan Devine had a lot to do with it. He ordered green jerseys three months ago and kept the purchase a secret until the Irish completed their pregame workouts.
"The locker room was going crazy," said defensive back Ted Burgmeier. "I don't know what it meant, but we've always heard about the green for the Irish and the Fighting Irish in green."
Meanwhile, will Navy catch the Irish still celebrating by Saturday?
The Mids play Notre Dame at South Bend, and they have a history of playing the powerhouses tough after facing a relative weakling the previous week.
On Saturday, tailback Joe Gatuso rushed for 250 yards and Navy walloped William and Mary, 42-17, to improve its record to 4-3. Earlier this year the Mids bashed Connecticut and then played a 14-7 game against Michigan at Ann Arbor.
And will Howard catch anyone?
"We didn't have any intensity." Bison coach Doug Porter moaned after Howard's 34-10 drubbing by North Carolina A&T at Greensboro.
The Bisons desperately need a running attack. They produced only 46 rushing yards against A&T. Howard, now 1-3 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and 2-4 overall, has a scheduling break this week in a nonleague encounter with Hampton Institute.