Although the University of Maryland and the Naval Academy each has two games remaining, how they fare this afternoon is all that really matters.
Victory today will almost assure the Terrapins of a berth in the Tangerine Bowl Dec. 20 and Navy an invitation to the Garden State Bowl Dec. 14. Bids are expected to be announced after today's games.
The Terrapins (6-3) face Atlantic Coast Conference rival Clemson (5-4) at 1:30 in Byrd Stadium in their final home game this season.
The Midshipmen (6-3), who play up-set-minded Georgia Tech (1-7-1) in Atlanta, have had their postseason hopes dashed four times in recent years by the Engineers, and have not beaten Tech in 12 years. Tech ruined Notre Dame's chance for a perfect season and damaged its national championship claims by tying the Irish, 3-3, last week in Atlanta.
The Terrapins, even with a loss, could be invited to the Garden State Bowl, with Clemson then being invited to the Tangerine to face Houston. A loss for Navy, which plays Army next week, probably would result in a Christmas vacation for the Mids.
Maryland is the only ACC team that holds an edge, at 16-11, on Clemson, with seven victories in the last eight games. The Tiger defense will see plenty of Terp tailback Charlie Wysocki. With rain forecast, Wysocki may carry the ball 50 times.
"I hope we don't get in too many situations where we just have one guy trying to bring him down," said Clemson Coach Danny Williams.
The two teams are evenly matched. Clemson's top-ranked ACC offense features conference-leading receiver Perry Tuttle, but the Terps are second defensively. Field goals could decide who goes to the Tangerine, and Clemson kicker Obed Ariri is one of the nation's best, htting 21 of 27 attempts for 78 percent.
"To keep Clemson from scoring," said Terp Coach Jerry Claiborne, "you have to keep them from crossing midfield because of Ariri.
"Clemson plays its best football against top-caliber competition," Claiborne continued. "They lost to Georgia (ranked No. 1) by just four points and had a real chance to beat North Carolina (15th) before they lost by five. It seems they've been their own worst enemy in the games they've lost."
The Tigers have turned the ball over on interceptions or fumbles 30 times.
In Atlanta, Tech starting quarterback Mike Kelley and his favorite receiver, Kris Kentera, have not sufficiently recovered from last week's injuries and probably will not play. A walk-on and a freshman may have to fill in at quarterback if senior Ted Peeples can't.
Navy Coach George Welsh will start quarterback Fred Reitzel, but second-stringer Tom Tarquinio probably will see action after rallying the Mids in their 6-3 victory at Syracuse.
In other area contests, North Carolina (8-1) can clinch at least a tie for the ACC championship with a victory at home over Virginia (4-5), which plays Maryland in Charlottesville next week.
Washington and Lee (5-4) visits Georgetown (4-3); Catholic (6-2), looking for its best record in four years of Division III football, plays host to Bridgewater (5-3), and UDC (2-6) will travel to Bowie State (1-8).