The number of undefeated major college football teams shrank drastically to six last weekend, but sixth-ranked Maryland and 17th-ranked Navy are heavy favorites to remain unscathed in home games today.
The 6-0 Terps are 21-point favorites at Byrd Stadium over a young, 1-5 Wake Forest team, and the 5-0 Midshipmen are 17-point picks over William & Mary, which has played a weak schedule in compiling a 4-1-1 mark.
The area's other unbeaten team, 4-0 Georgetown of Division III, will host 2-3 Johns Hopkins. Howard (2-3) will play 3-4 North Carolina A & T at RFK Stadium.
Maryland has to guard against the kind of letdown that enabled Syracuse to lead, 6-3, at halftime last week. But it is a home conference game and that should keep the Terrapins awake.
Steve Atkins, ninth in the nation in rushing (129 yards per game) and sixth among all-purpose runners (162 yards per game) should be able to team with Tim O'Hara, the Atlantic Coast Conference's leading quarterback, to overpower Wake's defense. Wake has surrendered an average of 21 points and 402 yards a game.
Defensively, Maryland will contend with a unit lacking seniors. And in keeping with the youth movement instigated by John Mackovic, Wake's new coach, freshman David Webber will start at quarterback.
"We're playing a number of freshmen in critical spots, so we know our youth will hurt us," Mackovic said, "but we also know that the way we've been playing, we're going to put it all together sometime.
"We're making progress, but we're still making some costly mistakes and we lack some of the offensive consistency I wish we could have. But we don't roll over and die."
Webber has completed 38 of 73 passes for 446 yards and has been intercepted six times.Wake's ground attack is led by running back James McDougald, whose 75 yards on 17 carries against North Carolina last week was his best effort this season.
Wake's lone victory was a 14-0 shutout over Virginia opening a day. Since then, the Deacons have lost to Virginia Tech, 28-6; LSU, 13-11; North Carolina State, 34-10; Purdue, 14-7, and North Carolina, 34-29.
Wake Forest leads the ACC in pass offense, connecting 81 times in 185 attempts for 1,033 yards. The Deacs like to throw short passes on first-down, but often find themselves having to throw on third down, as well. Wake is last in the ACC in rushing, gaining 698 yards in 259 plays - an average of 2.7 yards a carry.
Navy, off to its best start since 1960, continues to lead the nation in total defense (giving up 130 yards a game) and in scoring defense (4.8 points a game). The Mids have given up an average of 56 yards rushing, second only to Penn State, and 74 yards passing, fourth-best mark in the country.
The Mids' first two games were laughers but then they felt they accomplished something in defeating Boston College, Air Force and Duke.
"We've played three emotional games in a row now," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "I just hope we have enough pride and are smart enough to realize how we got where we are now.
"We have a lot of respect for William and Mary. This makes the third straight week we will be going against an outstanding quarterback. Tom Rozantz is an excellent one who has been around now for several years. He's smart and he's a good runner and passer."
Navy's leading rusher, tailback Steve Callahan, is a questionable starter, suffering from a strained wrist. To replace him the Mids have Mike Sherlock, who has gained 220 yards on 45 carries.
Navy defeated William and Mary last year, 42-17, thanks mainly to departed tailback Joe Gattuso. He rushed for 250 yards and two touchdowns, threw a 20-yard touchdown pass, caught three passes for 25 yards and returned two kickoffs for 34 yards - a total of 329 yards that day.
William and Mary's 4-1-1 starts is its best since 1971, but the wins have been over VMI (10-3), Connecticut (27-3), Villanova (21-17) and James Madison (32-7). W&M lost to Virginia Tech (22-19) and tied Temple (22-22).
After dropping its first three games, Howard has rallied behind the running of halfbacks Greg Banes and Beeman Veasley for two straight victories. Brian Thomas and Ronald Wilson are battling for the quarterback job.
Navy placekicker Bob Tata is tied for ninth in the nation in scoring with nine points a game and is second to Penn Stare's Matt Bahr in field goals with two per game. Maryland's Ed Loncar, who has hit just nine of 17 attempts, is tied for sixth with 1.5 per game . . . Clemson leads every ACC statistical category, except rushing defense (Maryland), pass offense (Wake Forest) and kickoff returns (Duke). Clemson is fourth in the nation in total offense with 465 yards a game, and fourth in rushing offense with 313 yards . . . The country's leading rusher is Joe Holland of Cornell, averaging 153 yards a game. The leading passer is Steve Dils of Stanford with 23 completions per game. Leading scorer is Joe Cribbs of Auburn with nine touchdowns; leading receiver, Dave Petzke of Northern Illinois with eight catches per game.