Maryland Coach Bobby Ross had just gone over the Syracuse roster, talked about how the Orangemen won six of 11 games last year, and how they beat Boston College and West Virginia -- ranked teams -- at the end of the season.

Ross was careful to explain that Syracuse returned 10 offensive starters from that team and how the Orangemen had two potential all-Americas on defense.

"We'll probably be underdogs," Ross said of Maryland's season opener against Syracuse in College Park Saturday.

Ross was informed that he was mistaken. According to the odds makers, Maryland is favored by eight points. "My lord," Ross said, "who are these people? Eight points . . . ? This is a heck of a team we're playing."

The Orangemen could be one of the most improved teams in the country. That improvement may not be reflected in their record this season because of a tough schedule. Besides Maryland, Syracuse runs up against Nebraska, Florida, West Virginia, Penn State, Pitt and Boston College.

Syracuse, according to some preseason prognosticators, is a bowl-caliber team regardless of the schedule.

Quarterback Todd Norley is starting his third season and has two fast receivers in Scott Schwedes and Mike Morris, another one of the football-playing Morris brothers.

"He's a world-class sprinter," Ross said. "And Schwedes is the guy you see who handles reverses and option passes. And Tommy Kane (a freshman from Montreal) might be the fastest receiver they've ever had there." The one offensive player Syracuse lost was fullback Brent Ziegler, but he will be replaced by junior Harold Gayden, who rushed for 514 yards and scored five touchdowns as a tailback last year.

So, in effect, Syracuse has 11 players of starting status on offense. The defense, which returns six of last year's starters, is filled out with five men who played regularly last year. Two of those -- linebacker Jamie Kimmel and right tackle Tim Green -- Ross says are all-America caliber.

Ross said, "We couldn't have picked a better opener. We'll have a good idea about our team after playing Syracuse." Maryland won last year's game, 34-13, and hasn't lost to the Orangemen since 1972.

Syracuse is even happier about playing its opener against Maryland. Coach Dick MacPherson said last night by telephone, "This is the most important game of the 1984 schedule. We think we're good; we better be because Maryland's got the status and stature we'd like to have. And the only way to get that is to beat them."

The Syracuse community, realizing the Orangemen would be a strong, veteran team, has been counting down the days till Maryland for months. MacPherson apparently doesn't mind. "It's wonderful the way the community is so excited," he said. "I'm just thrilled.

"We can hardly wait."