Wake Forest, Duke, North Carolina State, Clemson, Virginia. Those are the five reasons why today is the make-or-break day of the 1980 season for Maryland. The opponent is Penn State at 1:30 p.m. in Byrd Stadium. That's 14th-ranked, hardly-ever-lose-to-Maryland Penn State.

For Maryland, a victory over the Nittany Lions (3-1) would represent more than just an improvement on its 3-2 record. It would mean the shedding of an old stigma -- 24 defeats in 25 games -- and national recognition.

A loss, however, would leave the Terps with little chance for redemption. The five remaining opponents are the reasons. All are ACC teams and, even if the Terps defeated all five to finish 8-3, they would not crack the top 20. Even if a bowl bid came along, it certainly wouldn't be a major.

So, for Maryland, it is all on the line today, even though Coach Jerry Claiborne has doggedly insisted all week that this is just another game. Claiborne, 0-7 against Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, knows he will either be accepting kudos or ducking questions by dusk tonight.

The Terps' 1-24 lifetime record is not the worst mark an area team has against an opponent today. Virginia, 0-19 against Clemson, tops that and the Cavaliers (2-2) will have a tough time reversing that trend at 1:30 p.m. in Scott Stadium.

Clemson (3-1) has not had a dreamy season by any means, with several players having quit and Coach Danny Ford reportedly furious with his team for shoddy early performances against weak opposition. But the Tigers have talent and they have speed. They also play excellent defense and Virginia will have to get a lot more consistency out of its offense -- specifically at quarterback -- if it is to get that elusive first victory against the Tigers.

Coach Dick Bestwick decided earlier this week to red-shirt injured senior Greg Taylor, bothered by a hamstring pull since preseason. That means UVA will go through the entire season without the man Bestwick was counting on to provide balance in the attack by being a legitimate deep threat at wide receiver. Every team remaining on the Cavaliers' schedule has a winning record at the moment. And, as Bestwick points out, while Virginia can beat any of its opponents, no team left on the schedule can be beaten with less than an optimum performance. That must begin today for Virginia.

Like Maryland and Virginia, Howard (1-2-1) will try to get back on the winning side today. The Bison will play a homecoming game at 1:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium against Delaware State (1-4), a team it defeated handily, 23-0, a year ago.

The main threat for Delaware State is quarterback Samuel Warren, who will undoubtedly try to test the young Howard secondary. The passing combination of quarterback Ron Wilson and wide receiver Tracy Singleton has been Howard's most consistent threat. Coach Floyd Keith is hoping the return of running back Greg Banes will provide the attack with some needed balance.

Navy Coach George Welsh was the only area coach who didn't have to spend the week explaining a defeat, and Welsh should be in a similar position next week. The Mids (3-1), with a defense that has given up just 15 points in four games, play at Air Force (0-4-1) at 3:30 p.m. in a game that figures to give them a chance to fatten their statistics.

Air Force starts seven freshmen and last week lost to Yale, the best of the Ivy League teams but an Ivy League team, nonetheless. Fred Reitzel looks more comfortable at quarterback each week and the defense ranks first in the nation, having given up just one touchdown.The Mids should enjoy it while they can because the second half of their schedule includes Washington, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Georgia Tech.

Other local games today include Catholic (2-1) playing host to Duquesne (1-3), with Cardinal quarterback Steve Stanislav needing only 111 yards passing to reach 4,000 for his career. The game is at 1:30 p.m. at Brookland Stadium. UDC (1-3) also is at home -- Coolidge High School this week -- to play St. Paul's (2-3), while Bowie State (0-5) tries yet again to break into the victory column, playing tough Salisbury State (4-1) at home. Salisbury State romped over Catholic, 31-7, a week ago and it could be a long afternoon for Bowie State, which has scored only 29 points this season.

Maryland's offense has not scared anyone the last two weeks, either, scoring only 12 points in decisive losses to North Carolina and Pittsburgh. In those two games, tailback Charlie Wysocki, averaging 157 yards a game the first three weeks, was held to a total of 56 yards. The Terps were held under 100 yards rushing both weeks.

If there has been an encouraging sign for Claiborne, it has been the improved play of quarterback Mike Tice. He completed 26 of 48 passes in the two losses, even though the Terps spent most of both games playing catchup and Tice spent both afternoons doing a lot of ducking.

Claiborne has worked more closely with Tice this season than in the past and he and the 6-foot-7 senior seem to have developed a rapport that was lacking in the past. Whether that rapport will produce a more imaginative game plan remains to be seen.

The Terps started the week tight and hobbled. By Thursday, their last full workout, all the bruised players, with the exception of defensive back Sammy Johnson (ankle), looked ready and the confidence that had been lost at Pittsburgh appeared to be returning.

The Terps must play confidently and must get off to a good start. The first score in this game may be crucial. If Maryland scores first, it will begin to believe it can win. If not, "We may start thinking it's going to be another one of those days," Tice admitted.

Another one of those days and it will be another one of those seasons for Maryland, regardless of what happens the last five weeks.