Texas-El Paso, led by the mechanical man from Tanzania, distance ace Suleiman Nyambui, is a strong favorite to win its fifth NCAA indoor track title in six years this weekend at Cobo Arena.

Maryland realistically is shoothing to be the best of the homegrown talent, but Coach Frank Costello is conceding nothing to UTEP's foreign legion.

"We could score a lot of points and finish anywhere between sixth place and first place," said Costello, who listed UTEP, Villanova, Washington State, Auburn and Indiana as the chief opposition.

Most of the california and Arizona powers are already involved in outdoor dual meet competition and rarely send more than token competitors to this traditional windup of the indoor season.

UTEP won last year with 44 points, edging Auburn by six, although the Texans were deprived of 10 points they earned by winning the two-mile relay when an unauthorized substitution resulted in disqualification. Maryland shared sixth place with 20.

The Terrapins' big gun is Renaldo Nehemiah, who begins defense of his 60-yard hurdles title in the first of four rounds Friday night. It was the first trial that brought Nehemiah his initial defeat of the winter in last week's IC4A meet, when he lost his concentration and bypassed the final hurdle.

Nehemiah, who shares the NCAA meet record of 7.11 seconds, will be challenged by Auburn's James Walker, outleaned by one-hundredth of a second in last year's blanket finish that saw Maryland's Greg Robertson another hundredth back in third place.

Besides Nehemiah, Maryland expects a lot of points from Dennis Ivory, who won the Atlantic Coast Conference triple jump at 54 feet 2 inches; Bob Calhoun, ACC long-jump champion at 25-8, and Mike Corbin, who cleared 7-2 to win the ACC high jump. Corbin will benefit from the absence of defending champion Franklin Jacobs, who injured an ankle playing basketball.

Freshman Chris Person, the surprise winner of the IC4A 600-yard run, is a contender in that race here and will be a key man on the Terrapins' potent mile relay, which also features Mike Peniston, Andre Lancaster and Darryl Bryant.

Chip McCarthy is Maryland's polevault entry, having qualified with a 16-6 3/4 effort in the Princeton Relays.

Georgetown has entered teams in both the two-mile and distance-medley relays. Because of illness to several runners, the makeup of each is uncertain, but the Hoyas' quartets will be formed from Kevin Byrne, John Gregorek, Paul Kinyon, Bill Ledder, Aubrey McKithen, Phil Reilly, Keith Royster and Ron Stafford.