For the past five seasons, Villanova University has provided a practice team for the University of Maryland football players. Over that period, the Terrapins have beaten the Wildcats by the combined score of 170-19. Last year's score was 20-9.

"It's no doubt Maryland is the best team on our schedule this season," Villanova coach Dick Bedeson said yesterday. "They're so far ahead of us, and their 4-4 mark is very deceiving."

Villanova (3-5) has won two of its last three games and is hoping to catch Maryland moping from a 16-7 loss to North Carolina when the teams meet Saturday at Byrd Stadium at 1:30.

But even a victory over Maryland is unlikely because of the Wildcats' tendency to give up many yards - would not erase the disappointments of this year for Bedeson.

With a nucleus of 32 lettermen, 15 of whom were starters, the Wildcats were expected to be one of the powers in the East. But four losses in the first five games doomed Villanova to the mediocrity it has known the past few years.

Villanova's woes were apparent when junior linebacker Dan Driscoll and free safety Joey Clark emerged as the team's leading tacklers for the season following last week's 41-36 upset of West Virginia. In the 23-8 loss to William and Mary, several games ago, Clark, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, was in on 28 tackles.

Villanova's defense has surrendered 2,826 yards this year. One mysterious fact is that 1,482 of those yards have come on passes against a healthy secondary. That group, anchored by Clark, allowed only 1,100 yards in all of 1976.

With Maryland runners Steve Atkins and Preacher Maddox ailing, quarterback Larry Dick likely will fill the air with footballs.

Villanova fullback Vince Thompson has bulled his way, mostly between the tackles, for 624 yards and four touchdowns. Pat O'Brien, a freshman, stepped in at quarterback four games ago and has rushed for 336 yards and passed for 193 and three TDs.

Bedeson says his struggling team must hope to jump ahead Saturday and maintain possession of the ball to keep Dick and the potentially-explosive Terps on the bench.

Despite having the nation's eighth-ranked rushing offense, Bedeson is worried about the Terp's defense.

"We don't see that 6-2 much and it might pose a problem for us," said Bedeson, in his third season as head coach.

"We've had a disappointing season and regardless of how we fare the remainder of the year, it won't erase what has happened to us," said the coach, whose son, Dick Jr., is the offensive backfield coach and another son, Greg, is a tailback. "But a win over Maryland would surely salvage something."