The opinions of pollsters to the contrary, Virginia did not drop off the end of the earth after losing to Georgia Tech last week. After three weeks as the nation's top-ranked team, the now-No. 11 Cavaliers will continue their impressive season today at North Carolina.
A loss to the Tar Heels two weeks ago made Maryland all but disappear from the thoughts of most bowl representatives, but the Terrapins still think they'll have some say on postseason matchups. There will also be a certain amount of pride on the line when Maryland meets Penn State in State College.
Two other local teams are also on the road. Howard, still battling for a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, will visit Florida A&M in Tallahassee. Navy, which put up the good fight against No. 1 Notre Dame a week ago, is the honored guest at the dedication game of Toledo's newly renovated Glass Bowl Stadium.
The eyes of the nation turned away from Virginia after the 41-38 loss to Georgia Tech but the Cavaliers (7-1, 4-1 in the ACC) still have a lot to offer. Having already broken North Carolina State's 1973 ACC record (365 points) for scoring in a season, they are averaging 46.9 points per game, tops in the nation.
Junior wide receiver Herman Moore has caught touchdown passes in nine straight games and could tie the NCAA record with one today. However, he has been listed as questionable because of turf toe suffered against the Yellow Jackets.
Quarterback Shawn Moore still leads the nation in passing efficiency while tailbacks Terry Kirby (838 yards) and Nikki Fisher (677) have totaled 1,515 rushing yards. The Cavaliers have scored on a whopping 55.5 percent of their possessions.
"Not winning the ACC doesn't kill our season," said offensive tackle Paul Collins. "In our minds we're still the best in the conference. A lot of teams would kill to be in the position to go 10-1."
Virginia has already proven itself attractive enough for a number of bowls but it appears that one of them, the Fiesta, may have lost the Cavaliers' interest after Arizonans last week voted not to make the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a state holiday.
North Carolina (5-3-1, 2-2-1), which stumbled last week against Clemson, hopes to use a victory over the Cavaliers as a springboard to a bowl bid of its own. The most improved team in the country after a 1-10 season a year ago, according to the NCAA, the Tar Heels are paced by freshman tailback Natrone Means (507 yards) and a defense that has yielded 29 second-half points all season, none in its last six games.
The Terrapins hope victories over Penn State and Virginia the next two weeks will cause bowl organizers to think about them. Of more immediate import, though, is breaking a 29-year winless streak to the No. 21 Nittany Lions.
The Terrapins have never won in State College. Last season's 13-13 tie at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was the first time in 24 games since 1961 that Maryland didn't lose to Penn State.
"I've got a little revenge in my mind," said defensive tackle Larry Webster, who broke an ankle early in the last meeting. "I remember I was all excited about playing them, then six plays into it I was out of the whole thing.
"That's my motivation; I don't believe in things like streaks. To me that's like a curse -- if you believe it it'll happen, if you don't it won't. We might be down by seven points in the fourth quarter and start saying to ourselves, 'Oh man, the streak's happening again.' You don't want to think anything like that."
Supposedly fresh after being idle last weekend, Maryland is expected to try to control the clock by going to its short passing game. That could mean an abundance of catches for senior wide receiver Barry Johnson.
Of his 30 this season, 23 have been for first downs. Just seven catches away from setting an all-time school record for career receptions, he is also third on the career yardage list, trailing Azizuddin Abdur-Ra'oof in both categories.
If Howard (6-3, 3-1) beats Florida A&M and Delaware State in its last two games, it can finish no worse than a first place tie in the MEAC.
"We are in the hunt," said Coach Steve Wilson. "I don't know what we will do with the opportunity but we are glad to be there."
The Bison, the top-ranked Division I-AA team in total defense and passing efficiency, will start freshman Chris DuBose for a second consecutive game. In last week's 49-13 rout of Morgan State, he passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns.
Navy (3-5) was tied, 10-10, at halftime last week before losing to Notre Dame. But the Midshipmen can't afford any more losses if they hope to finish with a winning record. After today, they have games remaining against Delaware and Army.
Toledo's Rockets (8-1), who spent $18 million to refurbish the Glass Bowl, are hoping to clinch a Division I-AA playoff spot.