The situation is ideal for the Maryland football team this week. The Terrapins have had a week off to rest their aches and pains. They will play Clemson Saturday in Byrd Stadium knowing that a victory will give them their seventh bowl bid in eight years.
But that's not all. They could not be playing Clemson at a better time. The Tigers (5-4) are sliding, have lost three of their last four games. Their bowl chances, once considered a certainty, now are slim.
Clemson is beaten up, mentally and physically. The Tigers lost a heartbreaker, 24-19, to North Carolina Saturday, failing to get the winning touchdown in the final minute after moving to a first down on the three. The UNC game was their best chance to impress the bowl scouts.
They must face a rested, healthy Maryland team and Clemson may be missing three key players. Starting free safety Terry Kinard is out for the season after breaking an arm Saturday. All-ACC cornerback Eddie Geathers is doubtful after bruising a knee and leading receiver Perry Tuttle is questionable with bruised ribs.
Maryland Coach Jerry Claiborne must convince his players to keep their minds on Clemson and off the Tangerine Bowl bid that is likely to come shortly after the game, if the Terps win.
"We've got two more games to play with Clemson and Virginia and that's all I'm thinking about," Claiborne said the first time bowl talk came up. He will undoubtedly repeat that theme all this week.
The players, though, have been talking bowl since their convincing 24-0 victory over North Carolina State 10 days ago, a game witnessed by two Tangerine Bowl scouts.
"We think we deserve a bowl bid," quarterback Mike Tice said. "I doubt if there are many teams in the country with three losses that lost to three tougher teams than we did. I know all the seniors, myself included, would love one more bowl bid."
"The Tangerine Bowl sounds good to me," said Lloyd Burruss, one of 21 seniors who will make their final home appearances Saturday. "In fact, it sounds almost perfect."
To the players the idea of being in Orlando, Fla., probably to play Florida, on Dec. 20 is ideal. To the athletic department treasury, it is less than ideal. The Tangerine ranks 14th among the 15 bowls in financial payoffs to the participants and was one of only three bowls that did not produce a record payoff a year ago.
Still, with a $400,000 deficit to overcome from last year, Athletic Director Jim Kehoe will be delighted with any postseason income this team can generate. The Tangerine Bowl probably will split about $350,000 between its two teams. Maryland would then have to split its share with other ACC teams, but also will pick up a check from North Carolina's bowl appearance, most likely in the Liberty Bowl. If the Tangerine, which will scout six teams Saturday, decides against Maryland, the Terps still could end up in the Garden State Bowl.
"We all wanted the ACC title at the start of the year and thought we could do it," said senior fullback Rick Fasano, whose blocking was a significant factor in Charlie Wysocki's second straight 1,000-yard season.
"But when we lost those three games we had to regroup a little. Now, finishing strong and in a bowl would be a nice way to go out of here."
The Terps started this season with two goals: an ACC title and a bowl bid. Barring a miracle, they won't get the former. Barring a disaster, they will get the latter.
The Terps suffered two relatively minor injuries during their abbreviated practices last week, both to defensive ends. Howard Eubanks, suffered a bruised thigh and Joe Aluisi had his foot stepped on. Both should be available Saturday. Each became a starter when seniors playing ahead of them, Pete Glamp and Brad Senft, were hurt . . . Claiborne is 7-1 against Clemson, the only loss the 1978 ACC championship game in Byrd Stadium, a 28-24 classic . . . Wysocki now has 1,105 yards on 266 carries and likely will break Steve Atkins' record for yards (1,261) and carries (283).