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Terps hope trend continues

Friedgen's squad has had best success this year against ranked teams

Friedgen's squad has had best success this year against ranked teams

November 14, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Oddsmakers use computers and tendencies to figure out winners.

University of Maryland tight end Dan Gronkowski just whips out his checklist. And by his estimates, the Terrapins will beat No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday.

"They are a ranked team. We are playing at home. And we are playing at 3:30, so it isn't a night game," Gronkowski said. "It all works for us."

Well, considering Maryland's track record this season, it sort of makes sense.

The Terps have defeated three nationally ranked teams this season (Clemson, Wake Forest and California). They have won six straight games at Byrd Stadium, including five this season. And they are 0-3 under the lights.

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Those are all factors that have made the Atlantic Coast Conference interesting this year. Eight teams -- including Maryland and North Carolina -- have at least six wins and are bowl eligible. Eight teams -- three in the Atlantic Division and five in the Coastal Division -- have at least three wins and are still in the chase for a berth in the ACC Championship game.

"The league has never been like this," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "I have been associated with this league for 40 years and have never seen anything like this. There is parity from top to bottom like no other place in the country."

It almost puts Maryland in an all-or-nothing situation.

The Terps are a half-game off the Atlantic Division lead, trailing Florida State and Wake Forest after losing to Virginia Tech last week. Maryland has three games remaining, two at home with North Carolina and Florida State before finishing at Boston College.

By the checklist, North Carolina and Florida State are ranked. Florida State will be a night game. And Boston College will be on the road. It's hard to figure if the Terps will be 2-1 or 1-2 in the final games.

Take it for what it's worth, but it has Friedgen convinced that the Terps still have a good chance of going to the championship game.

"I told them in Blacksburg (Va., after the Tech loss) that I was disappointed, but if we win our last three games, we can still go to Tampa," Friedgen said. "We might still be able to do it if we win two of them."

To get two wins, the Terps have to take advantage of the home-field advantage. The Terps are 38-11 at home under Friedgen.

Meanwhile, ACC teams are 46-18 at home this season, a 72 percent success rate. Because of the loss to Virginia Tech, a nationally televised Thursday game, Friedgen had a chance to see the strength of home games at first hand with a Saturday off.

"I thought the league would be like this," Friedgen said. "How do you explain that we lose (at) Virginia 30-0, Virginia loses at Wake Forest and we beat Wake Forest (at home) 26-0?"

"Look at it. See what the home teams have done. I got the chance to sit down and watch the games of the next three teams we will be facing. I was a fan and I was pulling against them, but they were all playing at home and won."

North Carolina is carrying an impressive checklist of its own into Saturday's game.

The Tar Heels are fourth in the nation in turnover ratio. They have 18 interceptions. They have three blocked punts (all against Connecticut) and they have returned seven of the turnovers for scores. North Carolina also has defeated three ranked teams and is 2-1 on the road.

So, the Terps might need more than the checklist.

"Every win means a better bowl, but there are no guarantees of a bowl because there are so many teams that have qualified," Friedgen said. "We just have to focus on the game coming up. It is the most important one of the season."

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