Earplugs would be a useful addition to normal game equipment today for the players of Navy and Maryland, who venture into sold-out stadiums to face nationally ranked opponents.

The Midshipmen will play Arkansas, ninth in one poll and 10th in the other, under the lights in Little Rock. The Terrapins will visit Morgantown to face West Virginia, 15th and 17th after beating Oklahoma.

Virginia will play James Madison in Charlottesville and Howard will open Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play by entertaining Bethune-Cookman.

This is supposed to be Lou Holtz's best team at Arkansas, which is saying a lot because Holtz has averaged nine victories over five seasons.

"They're big folks, mobile folks, and they have great speed in the skill positions," said Navy Coach Gary Tranquill. "They can beat you at any phase of the game. I told my squad this could be the best team we'll play this year."

Adding to Navy's problems is a virus that left a number of players below full strength for practice this week. One first-stringer, split end Chris Weiler, had to be left at home with pneumonia.

Arkansas, a 17-point favorite, has an outstanding defense, anchored by all-America end Billy Ray Smith, son of the former Baltimore Colts star.

"If Bo Derek's a 10, then Billy Ray Smith's an 11," Holtz quipped, judiciously adding that, "My wife's a 12."

At quarterback, Holtz alternates Tom Jones, brother of Bert, with Brad Taylor. Each passed for more than 100 yards in the opening 38-0 rout of Tulsa. The Razorbacks have six good running backs, including freshman Carl Miller, brother of the Browns' Cleo.

Although it would appear to be a mismatch, Navy has a history of making the top teams struggle. Said placekicker Steve Young, "We don't feel like Arkansas is that far out of reach. We know we have a good team."

Maryland, a 7-point underdog, is counting on West Virginia suffering a big letdown after that 41-27 upset in Norman last week. The Terrapins picked up some confidence, if no victory, in their 39-31 offensive show at Penn State.

However, Maryland's leading rusher, tailback Willie Joyner, suffered a hyperextended big toe on his left foot in that contest and will not play today. So the Terrapins once again probably will count on the passes of quarterback Boomer Esiason, who threw for 276 yards at Penn State.

"We need to get more consistency both offensively and defensively," said Maryland Coach Bobby Ross. "We turned the ball over too many times in good field position. You don't do that against a good team and get away with it."

West Virginia's big strength against Oklahoma was quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns last week. He figures to throw a lot today, since Maryland's secondary again looks weak.

James Madison's only previous game against the Cavaliers resulted in a 69-9 Virginia victory in 1979. That is enough to concern Coach George Welsh, who as Navy coach in 1973 limited his team to off-tackle plunges from the third quarter on to restrict a rout of Army to 51-0.

"James Madison has a good offensive team," Welsh said. "I'm sure their coaches will remember the last game. Nobody wins a game like that."