Maryland and Navy will be trying to keep their flickering bowl hopes alive today when they face opponents struggling to recoup something from disappointing seasons.
Virginia, one of the nation's surprise teams, also will be trying to stay in the muddled bowl picture when it plays host to North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. in Charlottesville. Two weeks ago, the Tar Heels (5-3-1) were bowl shoo-ins. Now they need a win over the 6-3 Cavaliers to stay in the picture.
In Baltimore, Howard (5-5) will try to finish with a winning record by upsetting Morgan State (8-1). Morgan already is in the NCAA Division Ii playoffs.
Two other local teams, Catholic (6-2) and the University of the District of Columbis (7-2), will attempt to cap successful seasons with wins on the road. UDC is at Trenton State and Catholic is at Frostburg State. The Cardinals lead Division III in total defense going into their finale.
In College Park, Maryland (5-4) will need another good day from quarterback Mike Tice to handle Louisville. The Cardinals come into the 1:30 p.m. game with a 4-4-1 record.
"They play very good defense," Terrapin Coach Jerry Claiborne said in his weekly make-the-opponent-sound-like-the-Steelers speech. "They've got a linebacker, Otis Wilson, who's going to be the first linebacker picked by the pros this year. And they create a lot of turnovers."
The last remark is certainly true, the Cardinals having caused 34 turnovers this season in giving up only 16.5 points a game. But Claiborne did not mention that they also are only scoring 17 points a game and have shuffled three quarterbacks -- including Stu Stram, son of former Kansas City and New Orleans Coach Hank -- in and out of the lineup. A freshman, Jerry Gannon, probably will start.
The Terps are hoping for an impressive victory in order to win some attention from the myriad of bowl scouts scattered across the country today. With four losses, a squeaker victory over Louisville is not likely to enhance their chances for a bid.
Maryland's defense should be able to control Louisville's tepid offense. But Tice, who had his best game as a collegian against North Carolina two weeks ago, must continue to improve, and tailback Charlie Wysocki must flash his early-season form to get points on the board for the Terps. Starting center Kyle Lorton will not play and wingback Jan Carinci is questionable. Both have knee bruises.
Navy is in a similar situation. The Mids, 6-0 three weeks ago, now are 6-3 and, said Coach Welsh, "We haven't been good since Virginia (the sixth win.)"
Because they haven't been playing well and because they were particularly flat in losing, 30-14, to Syracuse last week, the Mids also need more than just a win at Georgia Tech to get bowl attention.
(As for the Yellow Jackets, only back-to-back wins over two of the nation's weakest teams, Duke and Air Force (three wins between them) have raised their record to 3-5-1.
Coach Pepper Rodgers knows he needs a victory today and a win over Georgia to ensure his return as head coach.
The Mids must get their running attack back in gear and hope their defense, hobbling the past few weeks, can recover from an embarrassing performance against Syracuse. "We've never been hurt by the option before but (quarterback Bill) Hurley and (tailback Joe) Morris just ran it to perfection," Welsh said.
Tech sophomore quarterback Mike Kelley (1,551 yards passing this season) is more of a dropback quarterback with a superb arm who can either be great or horrible. The Mids, giving up only 136 yards a game passing, will need a quick start to rattle Kelley.
Welsh is also faced with distractions today. The highly respected Navy coach is reported to be one of several coaches in line for the LSU vacancy next year. Charlie McClendon is leaving LSU after 17 years as head coach.
Larry Jones, LSU assistant athletic director, said, "The LSU Board of Supervisors has not decided on any candidates for the job yet. We haven't spoken to anyone."
Navy Athletic Director J. O. Coppedge said he has given Welsh permission to speak to LSU if he wishes. "I do that for all my coaches," said Coppedge. "This is no exception."
Other rumored candidates for the position include Bo Rein (North Carolina State), Lou Holtz (Arkansas), Fred Akers (Texas), Darryl Rodgers (Michigan State), Lee Corso (Indiana) and Ara Parseghian (former Notre Dame coach).
Today's best game could be in Charlottesville. Virginia and Carolina are on the move, but the Cavs seem to be moving up while the Tar Heels apparently head the other way.
Since losing to Navy, 17-10, a game that Coach Dick Bestwick called his toughest loss in four years at UVA, the Cavaliers have bounced back to stun Georgia and edge arch-rival Virginia Tech.
The VPI game, a 20-18, clinched Virginia's second winning season in 27 years. Now the young Cavaliers are thinking bowl, although at the moment the bowls don't appear to be thinking Virginia.
But a win over Carolina could change that. It would eliminate the Tar Heels from bowl consideration even though they are a popular first alternate with many bowls because they sell tickets. Virginia, with seven wins in the bank, would pop into the picture.
UNC has tremendous talent. Senior quarterback Matt Kupec holds most of the school's passing records and tailback Amos Lawrence is the most talented back in the conference when healthy.
But since their win over hated North Carolina State four weeks ago, the Heels have slumped, barely escaping with a tie against East Carolina, then losing to Maryland and Clemson.Lawrence, bothered by nagging injuries, has played sporadically.
Meanwhile, UVA Athetic Director Gene Corrigan, watching the wheeling and dealing going on this week, knows that because bowls have to make deals early, his team must do something eye-popping.
"We came on late," Corrigan said. "Somebody like Wake (Forest, 8-2 playing at South Carolina today) -- people started following them after their third game of the year."
Corrigan, a member of the NCAA committee that governs bowl, said he thinks the rule forbidding bowls to talk to schools until a certain date is impractical -- and that is why it is routinely violated. "The bowls are in an impossible situation," he said. "They are supposedly sitting around and waiting until 6 p.m. on Nov. 17 and suddenly making a quick decision."
All the bowls have been negotiating with schools throughout this week.