Maryland will be a heavy favorite here against Kentucky.Saturday, while Howard will be a prohibitive underdog when it plays the nation's No. 1 Division 1-AA team, Florida A & M, at 1:30 p.m. in Washington's RFK Stadium.
Maryland (3-0) faces a Kentucky team still struggling to overcome three bad recruiting years brought on by police investigations, NCAA probation and, most recently, an alleged rape involving eight players last spring.
The Wildcats are 0-2, inexperienced at many positions and having to choose between a sore-armed senior and a freshman at quarterback. Their attitude toward the game was best summed up today when someone asked Coach Fran Curci if he thought his team could win.
"Sure we can win," he asnwered, "anybody can get lucky."
It probably will take more than luck for Howard to upset 2-0 Florida A&M. Like Maryland, A&M is without seven starters, but their backup players seem every bit as strong as their first-stringers.
Like Terp Coach Jerry Claiborne, Rattler Coach Rudy Hubbard plays his second team frequently, so those players are not without experience when called into action.
Navy (2-0) is the healthiest of the Washington area teams. The Mids, led by tailback Mike Sherlock, who trails only Maryland's Charlie Wysocki among the nation's rushers, will face by far their toughest game of the season when they travel to Illinois (1-2) for a 12:50 p.m. (WJLA-TV-7) regionally televised game.
"This should be a good test for us," Coach George Welsh said. "If we can't get excited about this game, then I'll begin to worry about this team."
Navy rolled up considerable yards in its victories over pushovers Citadel and Connecticut, but has been plagued by fumbles and mistakes. Illinois, while certainly not a Big Ten power, will be much better equipped to take advantage if the Mids continue to bobble the ball.
Virginia and Virginia Tech also have important games Saturday. The Cavaliers (2-1), playing their best football in Dick Bestwick's four years as coach, host Duke. Bestwick has won only two ACC games in 19 tries since coming to UVA and both those victories were against Wake Forest.
But the Blue Devils could be in trouble against Virginia. Their inexperienced defensive line was buried in a 35-0 loss to South Carolina last week. Virginia's strength this season has been the run, with backs Greg Taylor and Tommy Vigorito each averaging better than 100 yards a game.
In Blacksburg, Bill Dooley's Virginia Tech team, 3-0 for the first time since 1967, faces its first top caliber opponent of the season in Florida State (3-0).
Georgetown will be at home, opening its new stadium against Duquesne. The Hoyas started their season on the road last week with a 10-0 win at St. Francis, of Loretto, Pa.
UDC (2-1) will try to match Georgetown's feat, traveling to St. Francis, while Catholic (0-1) will host Gallaudet in a local game. Gallaudet (1-1) is coming off a 7-0 win over UNC-Wilmington. Bowie State (1-3) will be at home against Fayetteville State.
The only similarity between Maryland's and Howard's opponents is that both run option offenses. A & M is led by fullback Michael Solomon, who scored 17 touchdowns a year ago and had three in the opener against Albany (Ga.) State.
But A & M wins games on defense. The Rattlers have given up just 95 yards rushing this season, and Howard quarterbacks Ronald Wilson and Brian Thomas will have to be able to throw the ball effectively for Howard to make the game competitive.
Maryland's main concern (so what else is new?) is an injury list that is beginning to look like a depth chart. But the Terrapins have been able to replace their injured players effectively enough their first three games that some people are beginning to make fun of them for mentioning the injuries.
When Maryland's sports information director, Jack Zane, went down the injury list at a Kentucky alumni function Thursday night, a UK assistant stood by and threw a crying towel at him, saying, "You're breaking my heart."
Added to the list this week were defensive tackle Ed Gall, sprained knee, and fullback Rick Fasano, fraktured ring finger. Gall will be replaced by freshman Mark Duda, Fasano by Jeff Rodenberger, with whom he has shared the position.
"One of the things that Jerry Claiborne has done so well is build his program to the point where he can have injuries like this and still have a damned good team on the field," Curci said today. "The injuries don't surprise me. It goes with the way they practice -- hard, harder, hardest. It's bound to happen. Of course they play the game with the same kind of intensity they practice with."
Curci may play as many as seven freshmen on offense, including Randy Jenkins at quarterback if starter Mike Shutt's arm stiffens. Shutt was hurt in the first quarter of the Indiana game, and has thrown very little this week.
Kentucky's strength, just as it was two years ago when the Wildcats were 10-1, is defense.
"They're a lot like Texas A & M," Claiborne said in his weekly build-up-the-opponent speech. "Texas A & M was 0-2 before they went up and beat Penn State. They were making a lot of mistakes, fumbling a lot. When they put it together, they were awful tough."
Kentucky has had just two turnovers thus far, but has had 122 yards in penalties.
This is the last of a four-game series, which Maryland leads, 2-0-1 . . . A win would even Claiborne's mark against the SEC at 5-5-1. He has won four in a row . . . UK dropped its opener to Miami of Ohio, 15-14, when a last-play touchdown was negated by a clip. Films showed the Kentucky player called for the clip never touched his opponent.