Virginia never has beaten Clemson. The Cavaliers are 0-29 against the Tigers. But when the teams meet today in Charlottesville, there is more than "30 in a Row" on their minds, because the winner could be in line for a national football championship.

Such a lofty goal is beyond the grasp of Maryland and West Virginia as they meet at Morgantown, but the winner will take a big step toward a successful season.

Navy embarks on a new era of offensive football when it entertains Richmond, and Howard will be bidding for its second victory when Morris Brown, an NAIA school, visits Greene Stadium.

Nationally, such matchups as Miami-Brigham Young and Oklahoma-UCLA will help light up TV screens in pinball fashion, with nine games being shown in the Washington area.

For its implications down the road, however, no other game can match Clemson-Virginia. Although the teams are ranked ninth and 14th, respectively, their schedules are lean enough to promise unparalleled success at the polls to whichever team survives this blockbuster.

"It's going to be the biggest game I've played in my life," said Virginia tackle Joe Hall, who told his girl friend to check with scalpers because his four passes are earmarked for family and he can't locate a fifth. "It's always a war and it's not going to be any different this year."

Clemson ran its streak in the series to 29 last year with a 34-20 victory. However, Virginia was without injured quarterback Shawn Moore, who has passed for 37 touchdowns and run for 21 in his college career.

Moore is healthy now and threw for 254 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 59-10 rout of Kansas. Still, Clemson has 10 of the top 11 tacklers back from a defense that ranked first in the ACC in 1989.

Tigers junior quarterback DeChane Cameron warned: "I don't think {Moore has} ever seen the speed and quickness of a Clemson defense. Those guys over there are just tremendous. I'm glad they're on my side and I don't have to play against them."

Clemson's linebackers are rated the best in the country. "Moore is very quick and he can make a lot of things happen if you give him enough time and space," said outside linebacker Levon Kirkland. "We'll have to put some pressure on him . . . rattle his cage a little bit. If we can get to him, we can shake up their offense."

Clemson's new coach, Ken Hatfield, notes that he had nothing to do with the 29-game string. But, he said, "I think more than anything, it could be a source of confidence, that somehow 29 other teams, no matter what the circumstances, found a way to win the football game."

The battle in Morgantown, W.Va., features a pair of senior quarterbacks who have waited a long time to show that they can do the job.

Maryland's Scott Zolak, one of nine new starters on offense, passed for 303 yards in a 20-13 victory over Virginia Tech last week. West Virginia's Greg Jones posted a modest 174 yards in the Mountaineers' 35-24 conquest of Kent State.

Jones, a transfer from Miami, has a big offensive line that averages 280 pounds from tackle to tackle. But West Virginia is inexperienced on both offense and defense, so Jones will have to carry a lot of the load as he tries to make fans forget Major Harris.

"It's been a challenge for me to sit around and watch Major get a lot of publicity," Jones said. "A lot of guys look at me and say, 'Man, I don't know how you've done it.' But if I'd gone anywhere else, the same thing could have happened. I made my decision to stay here and I'm happy with it. I'm just trying to have some fun."

For Maryland Coach Joe Krivak, another victory could get things rolling to the point that he could save his job. "We're good enough to win," he said. "I have no doubt about that. We've got a lot of young people offensively who've never been on the road with 63,000 screaming fans. The key for us is being consistent. The good teams are consistent. They don't go up and down from week to week."

George Chaump makes his debut as Navy's coach against a Richmond team that was 1-10 last season. He has emphasized the need for a victory, saying: "The kids are confident and we want to keep that. We have a lot of pride now and we could use a couple of wins to solidify the attitude that's developing."

Richmond's hopes appear to rest on quarterback Mark Mascheck, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior college transfer who once attended Purdue. He won the starting job from last year's regular, Kyle Horner. The Spiders have 18 freshmen on their first or second units.

Howard registered eight sacks in a 26-21 victory Sunday over Southern in Los Angeles and it could threaten the NCAA record against a Morris Brown team that likes to throw the ball. The visitors from Atlanta can't even hope the Bison are looking ahead to somebody else, because Howard has an open date next week.