Clemson is a running team. Its second-leading receiver, flanker Keith Jennings, is within 10 pounds of Maryland's backup center and spends most of his time blocking for an array of quality running backs.
"The guy is big enough to hunt bear with a switch, and, instead, he's out there playing flanker," Maryland Coach Joe Krivak said this week.
Maryland will face Jennings and company today at 12:05 p.m. in Memorial Stadium in Clemson, where 80,000 people, clad mostly in orange, are expected to watch. In other games involving area teams, Howard will take on traditional rival Morgan State at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore, Navy will travel to Delaware and Virginia will host North Carolina.
Clemson had eight home games, of which today's contest with Maryland is the last.
"I'm sure they'll set some sort of record for balloons released or horns given out," Krivak said. Actually, Clemson used to be in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest "balloon release," having launched 363,729 at the start of its season four years ago.
The ninth-ranked Tigers (8-1, 5-1) can clinch their second straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a victory over Maryland (4-5, 3-2). A year ago, Clemson won the title when David Treadwell kicked a 21-yard field goal with two seconds left to tie the Terrapins, 17-17, in Baltimore. Two years ago, Maryland kicker Dan Plocki was the hero. Plocki drilled a 20-yarder with two seconds left to give Maryland the win, 34-31, in Death Valley.
If Clemson hasn't already blown its chances of a New Year's Day bowl game (by losing to N.C. State), it certainly can't lose another game in the conference. The Tigers finish the season at No. 14 South Carolina on Nov. 21. Today there will be scouts from the Fiesta, Hall of Fame, Citrus, Sun, Sugar, Gator and Peach bowls present.
Maryland's goals are more modest. The Terrapins need a win today and one next week at Vanderbilt to have a winning record in Krivak's first season. Krivak was pleased with the effort his team displayed in losing to Penn State, 21-16, last Saturday, but not always the execution. The Terrapins had chances to score touchdowns and got field goals.They had chances for field goals and got nothing.
"They had opportunities to make plays and I had opportunities to do things," Krivak said. "For whatever reason, we didn't get them done."
The Terrapins and Tigers are opposites when it comes to offense. The Terrapins run for 125.4 yards a game and throw for 237.7. Clemson averages a league-leading 250.7 yards per game rushing, with 121.3 yards passing. Tigers quarterback Rodney Williams usually pitches to tailbacks Terry Allen (765 yards) and Wesley McFadden (601 yards), and fullback Tracy Johnson is called on to get the tough yards up the middle.
"Rodney Williams is the guy that makes the offense go," Krivak said. "They will live and die with the option."
Williams has completed 72 of 153 passes for 1,029 yards, with four touchdowns and six interceptions. Split end Gary Cooper, who is 6 feet 3, and 190 pounds, has a team-high 24 receptions for 451 yards (18.8-yard average) and two touchdowns.
The Terrapins have relied on the pass but not always survived on it. They again will start Neil O'Donnell at quarterback because he is more mobile and probably can better avoid the Clemson rush, which features the ACC's all-time sack leader, Michael Perry. He is sometimes referred to as the Little Fridge, a spinoff from the nickname of his brother, William.
What strategy will 6-9, 320-pound left tackle Ben Jefferson use for blocking Perry? "Try to get big on big," said Jefferson, "You can't get down. You've got to just keep on keeping on."
Meanwhile, Virginia and North Carolina are 5-4 overall and 3-2 in the ACC and might have a shot at a minor bowl game if either can win its last two games. The two will meet today at 1 p.m. at Scott Stadium, with Independence and Hall of Fame bowl scouts on hand.
One key will be whether Virginia can give quarterback Scott Secules enough time to throw. Secules, who needs just 168 yards to establish a team record for yards in a season, had thrown for more than 200 yards in five consecutive games until last week's game against Georgia Tech, in which he had 164.
Navy, like Virginia and Maryland, had to spend much of the week inside because of the recent weather. Coach Elliot Uzelac is concerned that his wishbone offense will be out of what little sync it has when it plays Delaware today at 1 p.m. in Newark.
"I don't mind the weather. But there was a flash and we could feel the heat and smell it," Uzelac said of the accompanying lightning. He's hoping there'll be no such sensation against Delaware.
"I'm not sure if we're ready," he said. "They're offense is so different."
The Fightin' Blue Hens (4-5) run out of the wing-T formation. They are the fourth Division I-AA team Navy (1-8) has faced this year -- the maximum number a Division I-A team can play -- and they beat Navy, 27-14, last year in Annapolis.
Howard is likely to have an easier time against Morgan State at 1:30. Howard is 7-1 (3-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) and ranked 20th in Division I-AA, while Morgan State is 1-8, 0-4. The Golden Bears' only two wins in the last four years have been against UDC.
And Bowie State (4-5-1) will aim to finish the season at .500 when it takes on California (Pa.) in the Jiffy Lube Classic at 1:30 p.m. in Baltimore.