The Naval Academy will have a chance to prove it is worthy of its No. 1 NCAA ranking in total defense today in Seattle if it can stop 18th-ranked. Washington in a nonconference game (WJLA-TV-7, 3:30 p.m.).

In other area contests today, Howard plays host to powerful North Carolina A&T and Virginia tries to salvage what's left of a disappointing season in Winston-Salem, N.C., against spunky Wake Forest.

The Huskies are heavily favored to defeat the Midshipmen. But Navy Coach George Welsh has insisted that the Mids (4-2) are not as good as those stats indicate.

"If we have a game where we have the best effort of the year, where everybody is sharp and hustles, if we get a couple of breaks, who knows?" said Welsh.

Washington (5-1) is coming off a 27-24 victory over Pac-10 cofavorite Stanford (4-3), but may be due for a letdown. "I kind of like the idea of having two weeks before another big conference game," said Washington Coach Don James, "but we take a big step backward if we don't beat Navy." James added that his team has not practiced with the fervor and intensity it did in preparing last week for the Cardinals.

Closer to home, with all the controversy over two players being kicked off the team at Howard (3-2-1), today's 1:30 p.m. conference game at Howard Stadium against North Carolina A&T has gone almost unnoticed. The once-defeated Aggies bring in the top rushing game of all Division 1-AA schools, averaging 330 yards a game, against the weak rushing defense of the Bison.

A victory for Howard would brighten the Bison's slim hopes for a postseason trip to the Gold Bowl, and help over-shadow all the attention given this week to former starters Ivan Thompson and Ricky Tripplet, who were dismissed from the team by Coach Floyd Keith earlier in the week.

The Bison however, with only two full days of practice this week, will have a most difficult time stopping four runners who all average more than 60 yards per game and have more than 330 total yards. Quarterback William Watson (414 yards) is one of three Aggies with more than 400 yards rushing in six games this season.

Watson, Charlie Sutton, Raymond Pitts and Danny Thomas are the other threats who run behind a truly massive offensive line that averages 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and calls itself "Operation Push."

The Cavaliers, embarrassed, 30-0, last week by Virginia Tech, will try to upset Atlantic Coast Conference rival Wake Forest, an 11-10 loser to Maryland last week.

Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick and his 2-4 team entered the season with bowl aspirations, but a loss to the Deacons today in this, the easy half of the Cavalier schedule, would almost assure a losing season. The Cavs have Tennessee, North Carolina and Maryland remaining on their schedule.

In other games, the University of the District of Columbia (2-4) travels to Johnson C. Smith (2-4), Georgetown (3-1) entertains St. Peter's (2-2-1) in a homecoming game at 1 p.m., and Bowie State (0-6-1) looks for its first victory at St. Paul's in Lawrenceville, Va., at 1:30.