Free-falling through the national rankings, Maryland and Navy will attempt to pull the cord on the parachute today against opponents considerably less formidable than last Saturday's executioners.

The 8-1 Terrapins, reeling from the 27-3 Penn State defeat and ensuing dive from fifth to 13th and 14th in the wire-service polls, may find the perfect antidote by traveling to the University of Virginia, which hasn't scored on Maryland since 1975.

The 7-1 Mids, who dropped from 11th to 18th after the 27-7 Notre Dame loss, go to 1-7 Syracuse to close down cold, concrete Archbold Stadium, which will be deserted for a domed playing field after 72 seasons of bone-chilling football.

In other local games, Howard hosts North Carolina Central, Georgetown closes its season at home against Washington and Lee and Catholic hosts Virginia Commonwealth.

Maryland offers the offense a final rehearsal for the Nov. 18 finale against Clemson, which will decide the Atlantic Coast Conference title and probably a Gator Bowl participant, Clemson, also unbeaton in the pant. Clemson, also unbeaten in the ACC, hosts North Carolina today.

The Terps haven't marched from deep in their territory to a touchdown in the last three games.

Virginia's offense may be in more trouble, as the Cavs continue their yearly search for a quarterback.

The Cavalier starter is Mickey Spady, a converted kick returner, who specializes in running the new veer offense.

Last year's I quarterback, drop-back passer Chip Mark, comes off the bench if the Cavs need to throw themselves back into a game.

"Mickey Spady's trouble is his arm. He needs to work on it. But he can really run the veer," said Virginia defensive and Steve Potter. "That's what Chip Mark lacks, but Chip can throw. If you put the two together, you have a pretty decent quarterback. But you can't do that."

Despite the revolving quaterback dilemma. Virginia is improved offensively over last year, although Maryland won, 28-0. The Cavs are hoping to catch the Terps flat.

"I have a feeling that if Maryland doesn't get up for the game, we can beat them," said punter Russ Henderson, the Cavaliers' best player.

"It's an assumption," said Mark, "but I don't think Maryland will be fired up for us. Just look at our record."

After suffering two straight shut-outs against Maryland in the last two years, Virginia already had built plenty of resentment, but its hopes were fostered anew by Maryland's poor showing in the Penn State game.

"Maryland can be had," said Potter. "Penn State really destroyed them, humiliated them, in my opinion."

Potter fears that Maryland will run up the score, if given the opportunity, in a effort to soothe its pride.

Navy also must pull itself together after its first loss.

"We're 7-1 and I'm not discouraged," said Navy Coach George Welsh. "We have three games left.

"Syracuse seems to be playing well lately. They have good personnel, better than a lot of the teams we've played. And I'm sure they'll want this game very badly since it is the last game in Archbold Stadium."

"Syracuse's lone victory this year featured the passing of quarterback Bill Hurley in a 31-15 decision over West Virginia. It was the only complete game Hurley has been able to play. He will miss today's contest with cracked ribs.

Navy also is having injury problem and several players are questioned including center Steve Kremer, defensive and Charlie (Thunder) [WORD ILLEGIBLE] middle guard Terry Huxel and defensive back Herb Wilson.

Howard has a chance to enhance its 3-5 record against 2-6 North Carolina Central but the Bison must depend on little-used quarterback Raymond Gray, starting in place of injured Ronald Wilson and Brian Thomas.

Howard Coach Doug Porter predicts a lot a passing, even though Gray's statistics are not encouraging: eight completions in 22 attempts for 90 yards, with five interceptions.

Howard's pass rush and pass defense could see plenty of action against N.C. Central, which goes almost entirely with an air attack.

The Eagles have completed 84 of 236 passes for 1,132 yards, rushed for only 657 yards on 276 carries, uncluding a multitude of sacks.

Tennessee State walloped N.C. Central last week in RFK. 41-7, passing for 270 yards. It is doubtful Gray will have that kind of afternoon but he may find the airways inviting.

The series between the two is even at 6-6-1, Howard winning last year, 3-3-0.

Terp tailback Steve Atkins needs seven yards to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time. He is the No. 15 rusher in the nation, averaging 110 yards a game. He also is 15th among all-purpose runners with a 141.7 average. . .

Terp field-goal kicker Ed Loncar is sixth in the country in field goals kicked per game with a 1.56 average. He has hit 14 of 23 . . . In the national.