Ink is hardly dry on the piece of paper that reads Atlantic Coast Conference Football Standings. But University of Maryland - the former champion - and North Carolina - the current champion - play here today before a sellout crowd of 48,000 in a game that could bring sudden clarity to the ACC title picture.
In other games involving area teams, Howard tries to crase the memory of its disappointing opener, hosting South Carolina State at Giants Stadium in East Ruhterford, N.J., Navy travels to Connecticut and Georgetown meets Catholic at CU.
All four games are at 1.30 p.m. Maryland's game will be shown on a delayed telecast at 11.30 p.m. (W.L.A. TV T).
Maryland, North Carolina, Clemon and North Carolina State figure prominently in what should be a tight race for the ACC crown, and each time one plays another there is plenty at stake.
Prognosticators have made the Tar Heels two-to four-point favorites in their muggy, packed Kenan Stadium. But Carolina couldn't get its new multiple veer offense working smoothly in its only previous game this year under new Coach Dick Crum, a 14-10 win over East Carolina.
Pollsters have made 2-0 Maryland 16th in the United Press International and 18th in the Associated Press rankings and leave north Carolina out entirely.
North Carolina wrested the ACC title from the Terrapins last year after three straight Maryland championship years, beating the Terps, 16-7. The Tar Heels were unbeaten in the ACC, tying Clemson, 13-13. Clemson lost once, to Maryland.
This year the Terps seem to be improved. Though inexperienced, the 1978 Terps have shown more gusts, beating Tlane (31-7) and Louisville, where they rallied from a seven-point deficit with 10 minutes left for the 24-17 win.
At this early point, Maryland's offense has looked better than Carolina's, but both sides expect a tight, low-scoring game from what are probably the two best defensive teams in the conference.
"It was just a defensive battle last year," said Crum. "They beat the living tar out of each other and I don't think this game will vary much from a year ago. We're prepared to line up and fight them."
Crum draws his expertise from film only, having missed last year's Maryland-UNC game while coaching Miami of Ohio. Pressure weighs more heavily on his shoulders today than those of Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne for several reasons. One is that the more than 48,000 home fans expect their champion Tar Heels to win and moreover they expect a better game than they saw last week.
Clairborne said he thinks the keys to today's content might be the kicking game and mistakes. Each team missed three field goals last week, and in a defense-oriented game, three points can be a great divider.
But kickers are completely unpredictable, so its more fun to look at some of the other matchups. The best individual battle may be between Carolina's All-America right guard, Mike Salzano, and Maryland's all-adrenalin defensive guard Bruce Palmer.
Salzano, 6-foot-4, 242 pounds opened many of the holes last year for (Famous) Amos Lawrence. Palmer, 6-1 and 245, is on a frenzied streak of improvement and loves to go against good players.
Maryland tailback Steve Atkins has capable challengers lining up to take him on, notably on the sweep outside linebacker Ken Sheets, a preseason All-America. In the middle is the player who hurt Maryland last year, noseguard Dave Simmons, who is faster than many backs, clocking a 4.6 40-yard dash.
Both Atkins and UNC's Lawrence were bruised last week but both are expected to run today. Atkins scored his first college touchdown against Carolina in 1975 as a freshman but hasn't gone against the Tar Heels since.
Howard's season took a quick turn downward last Saturday when the Bison were upset, 23-21, in their opener at Maryland Eastern Shore, Quarterback Brian Thomas completed only four of 12 passes and had two intercepted, but Coach Doug Porter probably will start him again possibly woking in Raymond Gray if Thomas gets in troubel again.
"We didn't expect to lose last week," said Porter. "We have to play well every week now."
Navy rolled up 447 yards total offense in its opening 32-0 win over Virginia with sophomore tailback Steve Callahan rushing 21 times for 100 yards. Connecticut lost to Navy 38-7, last year in a 1-10 season.
The Huskies are 1-1 this fall, having lost to William & Mary last week, 27-3, after a 21-19 victory over Northeastern.
Georgetown will be making its 1978 debut at Catholic against a Cardinal team that beat St. Vincent, Pa., 35-0, last week. The game is the third annual Steve Dean Memorial, for the late CU sports information director and local sportswriter.
Catholic has won the last two meetings on long touchdown passes by quarterback Steve Stanisly. Georgetowns's quarterback will be tested.
GU's offense is led by former Springbrook quarterback Bob Sitz.
Virginia, off to an 0-2 start and no light appearing at the end of the tunnels, travels to West Point to play Army.