Maryland, with a bowl bid in hand, and Howard, still hoping to get into the Gold Bowl, close out their regular seasons today against underdog opponents looking to salvage something from disappointing seasons.
The Terrapins (7-3) have had perhaps their most tense week of practice preparing for Virginia (4-6). The coaches realizing their team is in a difficult, no-gain situation, have been particularly concerned about a letdown the week after a bowl bid has been accepted.
Because of that concern, plays have been rerun because of minor mistakes and the players have been warned repeatedly to keep their minds on Virginia and off next month's trip to the Tangerine Bowl.
At Virginia, Coach Dick Bestwick has had no such problems getting his team ready for the finale. The Cavaliers have not beaten Maryland in their last nine tries.
"They haven't even respected us since I've been here," said cornerback Brian Shumock. "They're big, bad Maryland and we're little Virginia. But we honestly think we can beat them."
The Cavaliers are their healthiest since midseason. Quarterback Todd Kirtley, who missed last week's game with North Carolina, is back. Defensive tackle Stuart Anderson, who has played hurt for half the season, is almost at full strength.
The Terps' incentive today is the hope for a miracle. That's what it will take for Duke to beat North Carolina and give Maryland a chance to tie for the ACC title.
Virginia must control tailback Charlie Wysocki, who has rushed for 1,211 yards and needs 51 to break Steve Atkins' single-season Maryland rushing record. A healthy Maryland has won its last two games by an aggregate 58-7 score, thanks to a solid defense and the play of quarterback Mike Tice.
Howard also has played well lately. A victory over Morgan State would give the Bison a 6-2-2 mark and could earn them a bid to the Gold Bowl, Dec. 6, in Richmond, if North Carolina A&T loses to North Carolina Central and if South Carolina State gets a bid to the Division I-AA playoffs.
It's a long shot, but it has been several years since Howard went into its finale with any ifs at all. The Bison are catching Morgan (4-6) at the end of a down year. Bear quarterback Darrell Coulter, who has passed for 1,761 yards this year, has several nagging injuries and will play hurt if at all.
It has been five years since the Bison beat Morgan and a victory today would cap their best season since then. Game time is 1:30 p.m. in Howard Stadium.
Around the nation, the annual Big Ten Rose Bowl decider will be played at Ohio State, where the Buckeyes (9-1) will try to clinch a second straight visit to Pasadena by beating Michigan (8-2). The game will be on WJLA-TV-7 at 12:30 p.m. The second TV game in this area matches Southern California (7-1-1) and UCLA (8-2). Oklahoma (7-2) and Nebraska (9-1) meet in Lincoln with the winner going to the Orange Bowl, the loser the Sun Bowl. And in The Game, Yale and Harvard, both 7-2, play in front of a sellout crowd in Cambridge. Yale can clinch the Ivy League title with a victory. A Harvard victory would probably create a multiple tie for the title.