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Terrapins are finally where they want to be

November 18, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- In a lot of ways, the University of Maryland football season could be summed up by the opening verse of "Amazing Grace."

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

That sav'd a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

Here the Terrapins are. After 13 weeks of meandering through the season with as much doubt as promise, No. 22 Maryland sits on the doorstep of winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division on Saturday night when it faces Florida State in a nationally televised game.

"It is where we want to be," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen on Tuesday at his weekly media conference. "It's because we worked hard for the whole year to get here. Now we have to get it done."

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That's it. It's like standing in front of one of the floor maps at the local mall that tells you, "You are here."

From the opening meeting of the season, Friedgen has stated he has plans to be playing in the ACC Championship game in Tampa, Fla. The Terps, though, have teased and aggravated with losses in games they should have won, and rewarded and celebrated with wins in games they were picked to lose.

So, Maryland now sits at 7-3 overall and 4-2 in the ACC, a half-game ahead of Florida State and Wake Forest and a full game ahead of Boston College. If the Terrapins beat the Seminoles on Saturday and win at Boston College next week, Friedgen's coveted title berth is theirs.

In a nutshell, Maryland controls its destiny. One loss, and destiny controls the Terps.

"This is a very big game this week," Friedgen said. "It is probably one of the biggest to be played in years around here. Where we want to go, we have to win three more games. If we do that, it's all over, but you can't win three without winning one. That's the mindset.

"You have to play the whole season. You have to get up every week. It's a tough task, but the team that does that in the end of the season will be the team that wins the championship."

One of Maryland's advantages comes from playing the crucial game at Byrd Stadium. The Terps are 6-0 at home this season. Three of those wins have come against nationally ranked opponents, which means they have been tested in critical game situations while being in the spotlight.

The trick becomes trying to dull the sharp hype of the game to keep everything in perspective.

"You can't get carried away," said linebacker Moise Fokou. "It's not over yet, but at the same time, it's hard not to get excited. You have to take it week by week."

But this week is the week that counts the most, at least for this week. If Maryland does lose, it will have another chance to pull it out next week at Boston College, but then it's win and figure out tiebreakers.

A win this week against a Florida State team that hasn't won in College Park since 2002 will put Maryland closer to where it wants to be.

"I have felt that we have to take one game at a time," Friedgen said. "When you lose a game, everyone thinks the world is ending, but I know that you are just one win away from being back on top. There are mood swings because of the ebb and flow.

"I think you put the wins and losses behind you and focus on the next game, then you can count them up at the end to see how you did. You just keep going and believe that things are going to happen to people who want to make it happen."

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