Maryland Coach Bobby Ross made a note at the top and the bottom of this year's schedule.

"It was brought to my attention," Ross said yesterday, "that we started the season against Penn State, a team that could wind up No. 1 in the final polls, and end it against Washington, a team that was ranked No. 1 for eight weeks."

Ross is just beginning to prepare for Maryland's Christmas Day game with Washington in the Aloha Bowl, and is hoping his Terrapins can continue to show progress, as they have since the season-opening loss to Penn State.

The game in Honolulu will be a chance for Maryland to compare itself against one of the best teams in the West.

"It's difficult to evaluate when you haven't seen a team in person," Ross said. "Film is all so relative. But I know that Washington is a big team, with a large number of fifth-year players. And they have a lot of speed, which is reflective of the West Coast football."

In a telephone conversation from Seattle, University of Washington Coach Don James downplayed any notion that teams in the West are inherently faster or better. "I don't put any stock into the supposed western superiority."

Instead, James believes that Maryland, by playing one of the six toughest schedules in the nation, can compete with anyone.

"We have a lot of respect for Maryland," James said. "From the film, we were impressed with how well a new staff played against Penn State, one of the best in the nation. That showed a lot."

James said he has kept up with Maryland over the years because of his admiration for former Terrapin coach Jerry Claiborne, now at Kentucky.

But very few people in the Pacific Northwest, other than James, are familiar with the rejuvenated Maryland football program or its players.

"People know Willie Joyner (the Terrapin tailback) because he is one of the top runners in the nation," James said. "And they know John Tice (tight end) because his brother Mike (a former Terrapin quarterback) is up here at Seattle (playing in the NFL.)

"People know Jesse Atkinson, the place-kicker and Boomer Esiason (the quarterback), because they've been in the national statistics. But we didn't pay that close attention to them because we didn't have to play them."

Neither Ross nor James is very familiar with each other's team, because, like almost every coach in the nation, each is busy primarily with recruiting.

The Maryland players have been off since Nov. 20, other than individual weight training and running, and won't resume practice as a team until Dec. 9. And James said the Huskies (9-2) won't practice for two more weeks. Both teams will arrive in Honolulu around Dec. 19, and will work out daily.