Maryland gets one last chance today to salvage something from the 1979 football season and crippled Navy faces Notre Dame at South Bend, Ind., hoping for a major upset.
While the Mids meet the 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, Maryland hosts 17th-ranked North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium. The Terps will be trying to keep alive their slim bowl hopes.
Howard also is at home today, taking on Southern University at 1:30 p.m. in Howard Stadium. And in the battle for small-college bragging rights locally, Catholic is at Georgetown at 1 p.m.
For Maryland (4-4), the game with the Tar Heels is crucial. A defeat will mean the Terps cannot achieve any of their preseason goals: the ACC title and national ranking already are gone; a bowl bid is all that remains. A loss would leave the Terps with little to play for in their last two games, against Louisville and Virginia.
"If we can beat North Carolina and go on and finish 7-4, we can save the season," said offensive tackle Phil Livingston. "We've had a lot of disappointments. A win over Carolina would give us a nice memory to take away with us, especially for the seniors."
For the 12 Maryland seniors expected to play today against the 5-1-1 Tar Heels, this game represents a last chance.
"Things have not gone the way we wanted them to," said linebacker Brian Matera. "We aren't going to win the conference. But if we can beat North Carolina after being down, that will be one hell of an accomplishment. It will mean a lot and it could help us get into a bowl."
Maryland has been to one bowl game or another the last six seasons. With a 7-4 record, the Terps would stand a good chance of going to another, especially since a new postseason "classic" seems to spring up about every 15 minutes these days.
There is also another side to this game, Carolina is a good football team. What will happen to the Terps if they find themselves with five losses for the first time since 1972?
"If we lose this game it will take us out of everything completely," offensive guard Paul Glamp said. "Our whole season will be shot. Completely shot."
The game is just as important for Carolina. With a 1-1 conference mark, the Tar Heels still can catch 4-1 N.C. State and 3-1 Wake Forest and pull out a tie for the conference title. UNC also is in an excellent position to go to a bowl, even if it only splits its last four games.
Quarterback Matt Kupec, completing 57 percent of his passes, will be a major headache for the Maryland defense.
"What makes Kupec tough is the fact that he can throw the ball on the dead run off the option," Terp Coach Jerry Claiborne said. "He's an adequate runner but he's an excellent passer."
Carolina's best running back, Amos Lawrence, will play sparingly today. He has been bothered the last two weeks by first a groin injury, then a shoulder problem.
Claiborne will get some of his injured players back. Defensive guard Greg Vanderhout and linebacker Darnell Dailey, both of whom missed the Duke game, will be back. So will Charlie Wysocki, who will start at tailback. Defensive end Jimmy Shaffer, hurt two weeks ago, and defensive guard Mike Corvino, hurt against Duke, are listed as questionable.
Navy Coach George Welsh has his own injury problems.
"I've been coaching 17 years and I've never seen anything like this," Welsh said. "It's unreal. We may have to play some people who don't even know how to line up."
Eight starters are either out or doubtful for the 6-1 Mids against the 5-1 Irish, who escaped with an 18-17 win against South Carolina last week.
Notre Dame Coach Dan Devine has been moaning all week about his team's injuries. But at Notre Dame when a 6-foot-4, 260-pound lineman goes down he is replaced by a 6-4, 259-pound lineman. The Irish are deep. The Mids are not. It could be a long afternoon for Welsh and company.
Howard (4-4) finds itself against a bigger, deeper opponent today when it faces Southern (5-3). But Southern has lost its last three games and Howard is coming off a solid 28-12 win over Hampton Institute.
Virginia (4-3) is an underdog at Georgia (4-3) but the Cavaliers might catch the Bulldogs looking ahead to their last two conference games. Georgia started 0-3 but is now 4-0 in the Southeast Conference and will go to the Sugar Bowl with two more wins.
The Cavaliers, trying for their first winning season since 1968 and their second in 28 years, will look to their junior backs, Tommy Vigorito and Greg Taylor, to give them the ball control they need to pull the upset.
There will be no upset in the Catholic-Georgetown game. It is a tossup, with Catholic (4-2) owning the best defense in Division III and Georgetown (5-1) looking to standout quarterback Bob Gerard to crack that defense. CU quarterback Steve Stanislav, a 53.7 percent passer, is no slouch, either. Look for this one to be decided at the very end.
UDC, having its best season ever with a 5-2 record, travels north to Rutgers-Livingston; Livingstone (2-6) is at Bowie State (2-6); Gallaudet (1-6) tries to break a five-game losing streak at St. Francis (0-5), and James Madison (2-6) is at Shippensburg State (4-4).