CHAPEL HILL, N.C., OCT. 26 -- Can 60 minutes of football erase four years of frustration? That is one of the questions Maryland will try to answer Saturday when it faces North Carolina in an important Atlantic Coast Conference game at Kenan Stadium.

In another game of import in this area, Navy returns to action after a week off, entertaining James Madison on homecoming day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Nationally, second-ranked Notre Dame travels to Pittsburgh. Colorado, trying to keep pace in the Big Eight with No. 4 Nebraska, goes against flagging Oklahoma. Another fading team, Michigan, has fallen from No. 1 to No. 20 in two weeks and now must beat Indiana to climb back over .500.

With the area's biggest attraction, No. 1 Virginia, taking a week off before an expected showdown with Georgia Tech, ACC attention may turn to whether the Terrapins (5-3, 3-2) can clinch their first winning season since 1985. Joe Krivak has had records of 4-7, 5-6 and 3-7-1 during his first three seasons as head coach.

Although Maryland has virtually no chance to win the ACC title, a victory would keep alive hopes for a bowl invitation.

"I think we understand what's at stake but we're trying to downplay it," said quarterback Scott Zolak. "It's a must-win game, we know that, we understand that."

Maryland has had four other games that it considered "must-win" this season, losing to Clemson and Georgia Tech and beating North Carolina State and Duke, the latter game breaking a two-game losing skid. Krivak worried before the Duke game that his team was flat, a malady that has affected the team on an almost weekly basis.

"I would hope that we wouldn't come out flat for this game," said linebacker Jack Bradford, who had four sacks against Duke. "We showed in the Wake Forest game {four scores on their first four possessions} that we could come out and control things from the start. I know I'll be ready at the opening kickoff and I know our defense will be ready and I think our offense will be too -- this game is too important to lose."

Another early lapse could be damaging against the Tar Heels (4-2-1, 1-1-1), who tied the then-11th ranked Yellow Jackets last Saturday.

North Carolina Coach Mack Brown has been one of the best recruiters in the country the last two seasons, a fact reflected in the team's two-deep roster. Only six seniors are listed among the 44 offensive and defensive players. One of the more talented youngsters is freshman tailback Natrone Means, who has scored seven touchdowns in North Carolina's last five games.

"If things don't go the way you expect them to, you always look for answers somewhere," said Maryland assistant coach Tony Whittlesey. "We should have been ready for Duke last week -- they embarrassed us last year, it was a conference game, we're still in the thick of things. But you don't really know. Are we ready this week? You spend all this time in meetings, but you're never really sure."

Against James Madison, Navy (3-3) will try to rise above .500 as well as avenge a 24-20 upset loss a year ago, a game in which the Dukes rolled up 334 yards on the ground. They have averaged almost 27 points a game this season and should provide another test for the Midshipmen's defense.

In its 17-13 win over Akron two weeks ago, Navy allowed 227 yards total offense in the opening half but limited the Zips to 67 yards and three first downs after intermission. Navy did not help itself by suffering four early turnovers; the Midshipmen have given up 16 in their last three games.

"I was happy with the way our players responded to adversity and came back the second half against a good Akron team," said Coach George Chaump. "We have got to reverse the turnover jinx that has plagued us in the last three games."

Once again, the coach faces a decision on which of his senior quarterbacks should start, Alton Grizzard or Gary McIntosh. McIntosh started against Akron but Grizzard (who had sat out the previous game against Air Force with a bruised lung) rallied Navy to victory.

They have taken an equal number of snaps in practice this week. Grizzard, who already holds seven school records, needs five yards to become the fourth player in Navy history to rush for over 2,000 yards in his career. The others are Napoleon McCallum (4,179), Eddie Meyers (2,935) and Cleveland Cooper (2,582).