Pitt will come lumbering into Annapolis today, as usual a talent-laden squad that can bruise a field just by walking on it, and Navy is the team that intends to get in its way. Duke, on the other hand will tiptoe into College Park, hoping Maryland doesn't notice.
The Terrapins have won 11 straight in the series, and they are on a 13-game conference winning streak.
The Blue Devils are 2-4 and 0-2 in the conference, and without much hope in the 1 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference game at Byrd Stadium.
Navy, on the other hand, is hoping for a quick turnaround to its 2-4 season, and if the Midshipmen are to salvage any of their preseason hopes, they had better begin today at 2 p.m. in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
A sign in the Pitt dressing room says, "8-2-1." The Panthers' design at 4-2-1 is to win their remaining games and in doing so erase the memories of last year's uncharacteristic 3-7-1 record.
Pitt Coach Foge Fazio has endured more than the usual amount of discussion about his job since last season.
But for the moment it appears secure, with three years remaining on a five-year contract, and the Panthers are apparently respectable again, although without the swagger they possessed when they went 11-1 three straight seasons under Jackie Sherrill.
"There's always pressure on a coach," Fazio said. "Whenever you lose, that creates negativism and unpleasantness. You have to learn to live with it. Every game this season is a pressure game for us. Unfortunately, the pressure to win and the final result is what counts. Your schedule and injuries and how you play doesn't enter into it."
Pitt faced five straight bowl teams in the opening half of the season and emerged with a 2-2-1 record, which is what the Panthers had counted on. Its losses came to Ohio State and Boston College, with a tie against West Virginia.
It is doubtful, however, that the Panthers will achieve that 8-2-1 record if something is not done about the passing game, which has been nonexistent under a curiously troubled John Congemi.
The Panthers were held to zero passing yards against North Carolina State, and Congemi, who until last season appeared to be a worthy successor to Dan Marino, has completed just 76 of 146 attempts for 886 yards, 103 coming in last week's 38-10 victory over Rutgers.
"We've been wanting to pass more, but we haven't been too effective," Fazio said.
Instead, the great offensive hope is sophomore tailback Charles Gladman, who has rushed for an average of 115.8 yards a game and is ranked ninth in the nation, better than Navy's Napoleon McCallum. Gladman has rushed for 695 yards on 125 carries, and he is becoming famous for his torn jerseys and tackle-breaking ability.
Pitt's greatest asset remains a defense directed by Fazio that is ranked second in the country against the rush, limiting teams to an average of 56.1 yards a game and just 1.6 yards a carry.
It is probably the toughest that McCallum -- who is the 11th-ranked rusher in the country, averaging 110.7 yards -- will face all year.
The Panthers are eager for another crack at McCallum, who embarrassed them two years ago by rushing for 172 yards, the highest total against them in 14 seasons.
But McCallum needs help from a Navy offense decimated by injuries. Third-string fullback Erich Sauerbrey will start in place of Chuck Smith (sprained ankle) and John Berner (knee), but he, too, is slightly injured, suffering from a bruised shoulder.
The Midshipmen are down to youth at the receiver positions because of injuries.
One thing coach Gary Tranquill may try to help the passing game is turn to reserve quarterback Bob Misch a little more in place of Bill Byrne, who has been inconsistent.
Misch, who underwent offseason knee surgery and wears a brace, made a couple of appearances against Lafayette last week and completed five of seven passes for 47 yards.
"We may play Misch more," Tranquill said. "We might go two or three series and then put him in. I don't have any qualms about him. They've both practiced well. We'll see how the game unfolds."
In the Maryland game, Duke seems to be improved this season, especially on defense, where it has allowed 66 fewer yards per game than last year, largely because of linebacker Mike Junkin. Still, Duke's only victories are over Northwestern and Ohio.
Maryland will play without running back Tommy Neal, who has averaged 5.8 yards a carry.
But Maryland's offense, which has yet to play the type of complete, explosive game that was expected of it since the preseason, should be fine with Alvin Blount and Rick Badanjek in the backfield and flanker Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof, who has caught 21 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns.
The problem with playing Maryland these days is not so much the Terrapins offense but the defense. Duke already has problems running the ball -- its top two rushers average 3.6 and 3.2 yards per carry -- and Maryland hasn't allowed a touchdown on the ground this season.
Maryland Coach Bobby Ross, however, contends that the Terrapins are still susceptible to upset. "We have to go out and play our best," he said. "I've said it before and I'll say it again."
The most upset-prone team in the area appears to be Virginia, which has lost three games in the last four and is 3-3, 2-1 in the ACC. The Cavaliers would seem to be a lock against 3-4, 0-3 Wake Forest at Groves Stadium today (12:20), but nothing is certain anymore with a team that has lost to Navy, Clemson and Virginia Tech.
"We're in the same position they are," Coach George Welsh said. "Our backs are against the wall."