Maryland at Duke
Time to Shine: If Maryland starting quarterback Joel Statham can't avoid turnovers against Duke, it will not bode well for the rest of the season. The Blue Devils rank 98th nationally in pass efficiency defense. That's far worse than Temple's porous defense, against which Statham threw for 268 yards. Terps Coach Ralph Friedgen has publicly supported Statham throughout his struggles and has restricted Statham from speaking to the media until future notice. Statham, 20, is responsible for four interceptions and numerous botched option pitches through three games, habits that need to end as Maryland looks to its final seven regular season games, each of which is formidable.
Where's Vernon?: The hype around Vernon Davis started in the spring and was fueled during the summer, when Maryland coaches boasted about innovative plays that would accentuate the talents of the physically gifted tight end. But the sophomore only has had one catch for four yards since his career-high five in the season opener against Northern Illinois. Friedgen wants to get Davis more involved in the offense, but Davis has to eliminate errors that he has committed recently. "He's got to execute, too," Friedgen said. Davis could play an even bigger role than usual today because Maryland is banged up at wide receiver. Rich Parson (back) and Dan Melendez (hamstring) both are nursing injuries but should play.
The Roof Factor: Maryland will not be playing in adjacent Cameron Indoor Stadium, so the crowd won't be loud. And the Terps are facing what statistically is one of the worst teams in the nation. Duke has forced all of eight punts this season. And its offense ranks 114th out of 118 Division I-A teams. That said, Duke held a 20-6 fourth-quarter lead over a rising U-Conn. program before surrendering 16 unanswered points. And the Blue Devils led 7-0 after one quarter against Virginia Tech, prompting Hokies Coach Frank Beamer to say, "They really took the battle to us." Duke Coach Ted Roof coached with Friedgen at Georgia Tech and is well versed on Maryland's offense.
-- Eric Prisbell
Syracuse at  Virginia (3-0)
Coming at You: No more chasing little guys from sideline to sideline. After three games against spread offenses, Virginia's defensive linemen and linebackers this week will face a rugged Syracuse running game designed to smack them in the mouth. It's the preferred mode of operation for almost any front seven, and the Cavaliers' touted bunch should be up to the challenge against the one-two punch of tailbacks Walter Reyes and Damien Rhodes. Reyes is fourth at Syracuse with 2,830 career rushing yards and is one of three players in Big East history with at least 40 career rushing touchdowns.
How Special?: Virginia is a 25-point favorite, but the visitors could make things interesting if their special teams make as many game-changing plays as they made in the first three games. Free safety Anthony Smith has already tied Syracuse's season record by blocking three punts, including two in a 37-17 win at Buffalo two weeks ago. Strong safety Diamond Ferri ranks third in the nation with 34.8 yards per kickoff return -- right behind second-place Marquis Weeks of Virginia (38 yards). The Orange has, however, had a field goal attempt and a punt blocked this season.
QB Options: Sophomore quarterback Perry Patterson will make his first start at the helm of Syracuse's tepid passing game (134 yards per game), but freshman Joe Fields might also get in after apparently recovering from the injury to his lower left leg that hampered him last week against Cincinnati.
Streaking: The Cavaliers are aiming for their first seven-game winning streak since 1990, when they opened 7-0 and climbed to No. 1 in the nation. They also have the opportunity to become the first Virginia team to score at least 40 points in four straight games.
-- Jim Reedy