These probably aren't the best of circumstances for Maryland to come here and face a ranked Penn State team before more than 84,000 in Beaver Stadium.
After all, when the Terrapins (2-2) and Nittany Lions (3-1) hook up Saturday afternoon at 12:15, Maryland will be starting a new quarterback, Stan Gelbaugh, and a new punter, Darryl Wright. And it's unlikely 11th-ranked Penn State will be in a real friendly mood after its 28-3 loss last week to Texas.
In other games involving area teams Saturday, Virginia plays an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Duke and Navy faces a wishbone offense for the second straight week, this time at Air Force.
Despite having two new players at pivotal positions, and despite a history of failure against Penn State, the Terrapins certainly didn't look or sound like a team preparing for doom today.
The normal Friday workout at a high school football field near Lewistown, Pa., was quick and spirited. The Terrapins seemed quite anxious for this 28th meeting with Penn State, 26 of the previous 27 games having been won by the Nittany Lions.
Maryland Coach Bobby Ross said he has ignored the fanfare that accompanies a game in this series, but cannot ignore the significance of this game for his team.
"It's a big game," Ross said. "We won't back off that. It's an opportunity for us, a chance for us to thrust ourselves into a situation nationally. Perhaps this could be the type of game that gives us nationally credibility."
There certainly are plenty of other incentives for the Terrapins, such as breaking their 19-game losing streak to Penn State; proving they can win without senior quarterback Frank Reich, who will not play because of a separated shoulder, and winning for the 20 Pennsylvanians on the Maryland roster, most of whom weren't even recruited by Penn State.
"Being from Philadelphia, I grew up watching Penn State highlights on television," said wide receiver Sean Sullivan, who is trying to return from a fractured foot. "I've felt better, but I can go. This is Penn State, you know; you gotta go."
Another one of the Pennsylavnia players is Reich, who waited his collegiate career to play against the team his father captained. Even Penn State Coach Joe Paterno said, "I feel really bad about young Frank. I know how much this meant to him. I really feel for him."
Still another is Gelbaugh, a fourth-year junior, who a few months ago thought so little of his possibilites of playing quarterback that he asked to be changed to wide receiver. Now Gelbaugh, from Carlisle, Pa., realizes his dream. "I doubt Penn State even knew my name until this week," he said a few days ago.
Ross said Gelbaugh has had a very good week of practice, and that he feels much better about calling on his second quarterback today than he did last week. Gelbaugh then rushed in to relieve Reich and completed all six passes for 74 yards in Maryland's 38-17 victory over Wake Forest.
But what about starting a quarterback for the first time against a defensive team returning seven three-year lettermen?
"It's not like Stan is a fuzzy-cheeked sophomore," Ross said. "He's been around. He hasn't played in a pressure situation such as this. But personally, I believe he'll handle it well.
"Stan gives us certain things at quarterback we haven't had," Ross continued. "He runs quite well. And that might help us against a team that forces so much pressure. They come after you real good with a lot of talented people. In fact, if you read their press guide like I did last night, you'll find it's a who's who of high school all-Americas."
All that talent didn't translate into much against Texas last week, as the Lions were burned by several big plays.
The Lions didn't practice Monday, and only for 70 minutes Thursday. But Paterno said it wasn't his intention to shake up his players.
"They better shake themselves up," Paterno said. "It's their football team. Our question is not one of ability, but of not catching the football, turnovers, giving up big plays, foolish penalties.
"They're anxious to get on with it. It's a good game for us. I think you'll see a good Penn State team on Saturday."
Ross said it is essential for Maryland's offense to play with as much balance as possible. "It boils down to us getting a rhythm of running and passing, establishing both," he said. "If we don't, it could be a long afternoon."
The Terrapins exploited Penn State with passing two years ago (in a 39-31 loss) and it wouldn't be surprising to see that again Saturday. Paterno also has what he called "a major league backfield" to worry about in Alvin Blount, Rick Badanjek and Tommy Neal, who may have to play fullback Saturday in place of Stephon Scriber (shoulder injury).
Maryland's other new starter will be Wright, a redshirt walk-on freshman from De Matha, who will replace Gelbaugh as punter.
Out in Colorado Springs at Falcon Stadium, Navy will battle Air Force's "flexbone," which has produced 333 yards per game rushing with Jody Simmons and Pat Evans doing most of the carrying.
Navy didn't fare too well against the wishbone last week, losing, 33-10, to Arkansas. Air Force has won the last two games of this series, including a 44-17 victory in Annapolis last year.
At Duke, Virginia is favored to win its third straight game. The Cavaliers have too many good backs for Duke's defensive line to stop consistently.