Byrd Watching

Virginia had won nine straight in this series before Ralph Friedgen and Al Groh took control of their alma maters nearly five years ago. Since then, the teams have split four games, with the home team winning convincingly each time. If Maryland holds serve today, it would provide a huge lift for a team that has uncharacteristically struggled at Byrd Stadium this fall. After losing three games at home in Friedgen's first four seasons, the Terps enter today's game with an 0-2 home mark. "They're buying season tickets -- we've got to put on a good show for them," Maryland guard Andrew Crummey said.

Three Is the Magic Number

Both teams have used three tailbacks, with varying degrees of success. Virginia senior Wali Lundy, who ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns in last year's win over the Terps, sprained his foot in the season opener against Western Michigan and has played sparingly. Lundy's absence, though, opened the door to two more backs: freshman Cedric Peerman leads Virginia with 178 rushing yards and is third in the ACC in all-purpose yards, while fleet-footed junior Michael Johnson had a 70-yard run against Syracuse and a 68-yard kickoff return against Duke. Maryland's three backs -- Lance Ball, Keon Lattimore and Mario Merrills -- have each had their moments, and a hot streak by any of the three could end the rotation. Against Wake Forest, for example, Lattimore was the only back to carry the ball in the fourth quarter; he finished with a career-high 76 yards.

Injury Forecast

Cloudy, with continued fog. Virginia left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Brian Barthelmes left the Duke game because of injuries, and during a teleconference Thursday, Groh said they will be game-time decisions. He also refused to say whether either had been practicing this week. Groh was similarly vague about standout linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who has yet to play after offseason knee surgery. Maryland is without several players who suffered preseason injuries, but Friedgen said the team is as healthy as it's been all season.

The First Drive

Maryland has been competitive in each of its four games without having scored a touchdown on its first drive, but the Terps' opening possession today could nevertheless serve as a barometer. For one thing, three of Maryland's opening drives have ended with field goals from inside the opponents' 10-yard line, and an early strike could dim the memory of those missed opportunities. It could also offer a salve to the wound opened last year in Charlottesville, when the Terps were shut out for just the second time in the Friedgen era. Virginia has appeared vulnerable to fast starts; lowly Western Michigan got a field goal on its opening drive against the Cavs, and Syracuse -- which boasts the nation's 104th-best offense -- began with a touchdown.

Wali Lundy