Home Is . . .
Whatever it is, it isn't good. N.C. State has managed three nonconference home wins, but in ACC games the Wolfpack is 0-3 at home and 2-2 on the road. Maryland recently wrapped up a 1-4 home slate, its worst mark at Byrd Stadium since 1997. In games away from College Park -- including the season opener in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium -- the Terps are 4-1. "Playing at home I think is probably an advantage for them," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said, "although we seem to win more on the road than we do at home. So who knows."
If the Terps lose, it would be the last collegiate game for 6-foot-1, 231-pound senior linebacker D'Qwell Jackson. The nation's second-leading tackler will be an early selection in next year's NFL draft; this week, he was named a finalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the nation's most outstanding defender. "It's the biggest honor I've ever received," he said. "I've put in so much time and effort. It's been hard, my ups and downs through the years, and to be honored for an award like that is just tremendous."
Saying Goodbye, Part II
If the Terps lose, it also could be the final collegiate game for junior tight end Vernon Davis, who could join Jackson in the NFL draft. Davis has fended off questions about his future: "I don't even think about it no more," he said this week. But Friedgen said the 6-3, 253-pound Davis is being inundated with calls from agents. Friedgen said he would call several NFL general managers after the season to assess Davis's prospects; if he is projected as a first-round pick, Friedgen said, the District native probably would leave College Park. Davis leads the Terps in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Among tight ends, he is second in the nation in receiving yards per game.
New Back City
Today's game will feature two of the best young tailbacks in the ACC. Maryland sophomore Lance Ball has been brilliant since seizing the featured role; in his past three games, he's gained 416 yards on the ground. N.C. State freshman Andre Brown burst into the spotlight by gaining 248 yards against Southern Mississippi in late October. In the three games since, Brown has gained 285 yards, and despite hardly playing early in the season, he is the ACC's eighth-leading rusher. The Wolfpack is 3-1 since Brown's emergence.
Maryland has yielded 14 sacks in its past four games, and injured quarterback Sam Hollenbach has looked increasingly skittish in recent weeks against some of the ACC's stronger defensive lines. N.C. State won't provide a breather; 6-7, 290-pound defensive end Mario Williams is second in the ACC with nine sacks while 6-6, 245-pound end Manny Lawson is tied for third with 8.5. Lawson also leads the ACC with 171/2 tackles for losses.
-- Dan Steinberg