When the football teams representing the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina meet today at 12:05 p.m. at Byrd Stadium, each will be in a very similar situation.

Each needs another running back or two. Each, because of its inconsistency, has played short of its preseason expectations. But, most of all, each needs to win today to stay in the race for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

"We feel our record should be a little better, but things didn't go well on both sides of the ball," said North Carolina nose guard Carlton Bailey, a graduate of Woodlawn High in Baltimore. "Our No. 1 goal was to contend for the national championship, but that's already blown. But our second goal is the ACC championship and that's still in reach."

Each team is 4-3 overall, with Maryland and Clemson tied for first place at 3-1, while North Carolina is 2-1. The Tar Heels will play Clemson next week in Chapel Hill, N.C., and Maryland will go to Clemson the week after.

"Our destiny in the conference at least is in our own hands," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak said.

He's able to say that because of the fourth-quarter comeback his team pulled off last week against Duke, scoring two touchdowns and two two-point conversions in the last 9 1/2 minutes to beat the Blue Devils, 23-22.

Sophomore quarterback Neil O'Donnell replaced injured starter Dan Henning and was in the game for all of the Terrapins' points. Because O'Donnell did so well, he will make his first collegiate start today.

North Carolina Coach Dick Crum said it doesn't much matter who is playing quarterback. "Whoever it is, he runs the Maryland offense," Crum said. "I don't think it makes any difference."

One slight difference might be that Maryland will throw more rollout passes, in part because O'Donnell is a bit quicker than Henning but also because North Carolina has a big, quick defensive line.

"You've got to be ready to try to counter that," Krivak said. "Maybe that means more shotgun, or getting out on the perimeter, or screens and draws. The key is not to be in too many third-and-long situations."

Obviously, Crum doesn't want to be in those situations, either. There's been enough pressure this year on his quarterback, Mark Maye, who many thought would be a national star this fall. A 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior, Maye missed most of a couple seasons because of a bad shoulder and still throws only twice a week in practice. But on Saturdays he has completed 98 of 190 passes (51.6 percent) for 1,331 yards, with six touchdowns. He's also thrown nine interceptions.

"Early in the season, we relied too much on the pass," said Crum, whose team averages 194.4 yards passing and 182.4 rushing per game. "That made it extremely difficult for Mark, and I think he got the feeling he had to carry the whole load. That's why we said we're just going to run the ball against North Carolina State. Now, if we can have a good running game. Mark can throw; there's no question about that. But you can't do it time after time."

Navy (1-6) has a very tough assignment today beginning at noon. The Midshipmen, who played well in losing to Pittsburgh last week, 10-6, will be in sold out Notre Dame Stadium to face the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish (5-1).

Navy Coach Elliot Uzelac hopes his young team doesn't know enough to be intimidated by the surroundings.

"The youth of our team is an advantage in this situation," he said. "They don't worry about Notre Dame; they don't worry about anything except playing football. . . . {Freshman quarterback Alton} Grizzard, he doesn't even know who won the World Series, let alone worry about Notre Dame. He just wants to play ball. We weren't intimidated by Pitt. I just don't believe they'll be intimidated by Notre Dame. . .

"We're going to play Notre Dame. We're not going to play the Ghost of Notre Dame or Touchdown Jesus. We're going to go play human beings."

Just in case, Navy has practiced being yelled at.

"We put the ball on the 5-yard line and we put all 140 kids in that one little area and we surround it," Uzelac said. "Then the offense and defense line up, I call a play and then the crowd -- the players -- scream as loud as they possibly can. We look like idiots out there -- there's no question about it -- but we're doing the right thing. We force him {Grizzard} to either run the play or appeal the crowd noise to the official."

Notre Dame has won 23 straight from the Midshipmen and last year the Irish led at the half, 31-0, before winning by 33-14. In that game, Tim Brown emerged as a star, gaining 184 yards receiving, 19 yards rushing and 81 returning kickoffs. Now he is among the leading candidates for the Heisman Trophy.

"We're going to be very specific in how we kick the ball, where we kick the ball and, after last Saturday's terrible punt coverage, we're changing some people and getting in some guys, even though they're younger, who can run better and get down field and tackle better," said Uzelac, whose team allowed punt returns of 41 and 44 yards. "It won't be easy though."

Ron Jones is probably saying the same thing. A graduate of H.D. Woodson High School, he is Norfolk State's third-string quarterback but will have to start today against Howard at 1:30 p.m. at Greene Stadium. The Bison (5-1) are the 20th-rated team in Div. I-AA, the first time they have been ranked. Norfolk State (3-5) has lost three in a row.

Nationally, No. 6 Auburn, which will have quarterback Jeff Burger, will be at home against No. 10 Florida in the only game involving two top 10 teams. Undefeated and eighth-ranked Syracuse will visit Pittsburgh, while No. 20 Michigan State will play No. 15 Ohio State in Columbus. The other key Big Ten game will be in Iowa City, where 11th-ranked Indiana will take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.