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Terps have everything to play for

November 21, 2008|By BOB PARASILITI

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Under normal circumstances, Maryland's football game on Saturday would be tough enough.

The No. 22 Terrapins are playing Florida State -- the team, the tradition and the reputation all wrapped in one garnet-colored package.

But the circumstances aren't normal. Maryland and Florida State will be meeting at Byrd Stadium in a critical game in the Atlantic Coast Conference's championship sweepstakes. First prize is the chance to represent the Atlantic Division in the league's championship game.

It makes a difficult situation all the more difficult for the Terps.

"You have to be at your best. The margin of error is very slim when you play (against FSU coach Bobby Bowden)," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. "You have to play very aggressively. ... You are battling for every inch you can as hard as you can for as long as you can. That is what it is like to play against Florida State."

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The mystique of Florida State is just another wrinkle in a game that has so much riding on it for both teams, but specifically the Terps.

This game is everything Maryland has talked about for an entire season. Friedgen has made no qualms about why the Terps were playing the season -- to reach the league title game.

It's that and so much more.

Saturday will be the last time 30 Maryland seniors play at Byrd Stadium. And they make their exit with the chance to get the Terps closer to that goal while improving their bowl image and finishing the season undefeated at home.

"To come into the 11th game and with control of your destiny shows how good of a season it has been," said Maryland center Edwin Williams. "You have to step the level of your game up. You can't quit. You have to go out there and play full bore."

There are aspects of Florida State, which needs a large combination of events to happen to win the division title, that make this more than just an ordinary championship-caliber game.

"This is a very big game this week," Friedgen said. "It is one of the biggest played around here in years. (Florida State) leads the ACC in total offense and total defense and they are fourth in the nation in tackles for loss."

Maryland's success hinges on how the Terps handle the Seminoles' size and speed, especially on defense.

Friedgen said he is concerned about how fast Florida State is off the edges of its alignment. The Seminoles run a "zero coverage," with defensive backs leaving their men to charge from off the line of scrimmage.

"They are an amazing team," Williams said. "The statistics don't lie. They bring a lot to the table. Our intensity has to match theirs. We just have to play football and not worry about Senior Night."

The offense is also built on speed, but has an added weapon of height, especially at receiver.

"Wide receiver is a concern," Friedgen said. "Greg Carr is their leading receiver and he is 6-foot-6 and 217 pounds. They will look for matchups on our corners and they are mostly bigger, so you can expect them to take a couple of shots up top."

Maryland was in a similar position two years ago when it met Wake Forest at home in a winner-take-all match for the Atlantic Division title. The 30 seniors were on that team, which lost. Now the Terps try to make up for the one that got away.

"With this one, I think we all know what is at stake," Friedgen said. "I am just talking to our kids about playing good and I'm not making a big deal out of it because I think they already know the deal. I told them last night, I want to be a cheerleader this week."

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