College football bowl scouts agree on two things. First, Maryland is a team in demand.
Secondly, the Terrapins are not alone.
"If Maryland beats Clemson, they'll be in a bowl on New Year's Day," Tim Treadwell, team selection chairman of the Liberty Bowl, said yesterday.
"Maryland is being talked about by a lot of bowl people," said Charlie Kimbrell, an official for the Orange Bowl. "They've got an attractive coach (Bobby Ross) who's really got something going up there, and a good quarterback (Boomer Esiason)."
Kimbrell also said "it would be stretching it a bit" for the Orange Bowl to invite Maryland, even if the Terrapins win their last two games and finish with a 9-2 record.
Maryland (7-2) will play Clemson (6-1-1) Saturday at Byrd Stadium in a game that will do more than determine the probable Atlantic Coast Conference champion. Each is 4-0 in the conference.
It also will help settle some of the confusion surrounding which teams will play in the 14 postseason bowl games, the five most prestigious being played on Jan. 1. Bowl invitations cannot be extended officially until Nov. 20.
The bowl picture is muddled because four of the nation's top 10 teams lost Saturday: top-ranked Pittsburgh, No. 5 Arkansas, No. 8 Alabama and No. 9 UCLA.
Georgia, Southern Methodist, Arizona State and Louisiana State are the only remaining undefeated teams. Eight other teams have one loss. Of the teams with two losses, Alabama, Michigan and Maryland appear to be the most attractive to bowl scouts.
Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Navy, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Auburn, Stanford, Brigham Young, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Miami are unranked teams still contending for bowl bids.
"There just seem to be more teams -- more top, well-known teams -- still in the picture than there have ever been on any Nov. 7 that I can remember," said Treadwell, who has been with the Liberty Bowl for 17 years.
"It's all very confusing, more so than in a number of years," said Kimbrell. He noted that the Orange Bowl committee will have an extra mid-week meeting to "analyze the bowl picture all over again."
"All over the country, parity is here in college football," said John Junker of the Fiesta Bowl. "It's better for the football fan, tougher for the bowl people . . . there's no such thing as a sure thing any more."
Of the teams ranked in last week's top 20 by the Associated Press, 18 are virtually assured of being invited to a bowl game. Southern Cal, on probation, is ineligible. No. 20 Florida has three losses, but still may earn a bid.
Even if they lose to No. 13 Clemson, the No. 19 Terrapins would receive a bid. "If they finish 8-3," said Treadwell, "Maryland is in a bowl."
Maryland will end the season Nov. 20 at Virginia, an ACC team the Terrapins have beaten 10 straight years. One victory in the next two games could land the Terrapins in Honolulu on Christmas Day to play in the first Aloha Bowl. There were scouts from the Aloha, Tangerine and Sun bowls at College Park Saturday.
That Maryland could play so poorly Saturday, and still defeat, 18-17, a prominent team like Miami had special significance to many Terrapins.
"There comes a time," running back John Nash said after the game, "when you have to reach a certain level of confidence that you can win even if you don't play especially well. I think we showed today we have reached that level. The team feels confident that we know how to win."
Ross called it "a character win. It was a day we did not have it together offensively. Every time we tried to do something to take the pressure off, we'd drop a pass or get a penalty. But at the same time, I think we showed we reached a point where we can call on maturity and confidence."
"If we play like that against Clemson we'll probably get blown out," said Esiason, who had seemingly a dozen passes dropped and failed to throw for a touchdown for the first time this season.
Maryland also will have to contend with Clemson quarterback Homer Jordan, who says there is an 80 percent chance he will start after missing the last three weeks with a sprained knee.
Defensive tackle Gurnest Brown of Maryland may miss several days of practice with a sprained right ankle he suffered in the first half, but is expected to be ready for Clemson. Leading receiver Russell Davis, who sat out the Miami game with a sprained right ankle, should be practicing early this week.
Georgia tailback Herschel Walker, with 590 yards the last three weeks, appears to have moved past Stanford quarterback John Elway and Southern Methodist tailback Eric Dickerson in the Heisman race.
Elway completed 22 of 33 passes for 259 yards and one touchdown as Stanford lost, 41-27, to Arizona. Elway set an NCAA record for pass completions in a career.
In a 41-14 rout of Rice, Dickerson carried 25 times for 102 yards and one touchdown. Dickerson has gained 1,421 yards this season (a 7.4 yard average); Walker has six fewer yards in 84 more carries (5.1 average).
But Walker's 219 yards Saturday--his second straight 219-yard rushing performance--helped Georgia defeat Florida, 44-0. The magnitude of that victory likely will push the Bulldogs, ranked third last week, past SMU into the No. 1 spot in this week's AP poll.
Navy defeated Syracuse, 20-18, but lost three more regulars to injuries. Ken Fancher, a defensive end and linebacker, broke his left arm, and Ed Pierson became the seventh defensive end to incur an injury in the last three weeks when he suffered a strained right knee. Defensive back Brian Cianella suffered a bruised right foot.