COLLEGE PARK -- Joe Krivak and Bobby Ross are sure about one thing. The football game to be played here Saturday between their teams is a big one.
"This is an important game," Maryland's Krivak said at his weekly press luncheon yesterday. "We know it and they know it."
Ross, who coaches 3-0 Georgia Tech, confesses that he and his Yellow Jackets do know it.
"We know it's an important game for both of us," said Ross, who was Maryland's head coach from 1982 to '86. "If we win, we can establish ourselves in the front category as far as the Atlantic Coast Conference is concerned. That's been a major goal of ours this season."
Tech, which struggled in its first two seasons under Ross, is definitely an ACC title contender now. It has won 10 of its last 11 games including the last seven in a row.
Last week the Jackets walloped No. 25 South Carolina, 27-6. This week the Associated Press has Georgia Tech at No. 23.
"I'm unranked," said Krivak, whose team is a surprising 3-2 (1-1 in the ACC), "but our kids are playing their pants off and I'm real proud of 'em. They're good because they want to be good. They play hard. They stick together. There's good chemistry on this team.
"I think somebody with two losses can still win the ACC. This is a big game for us because it's the start of a four-game stretch against ACC teams." Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina follow Georgia Tech.
The game is a "pick 'em" in the latest line, despite Maryland's 45-17 loss at Michigan last week and Tech's winning streak. Moreover, the Yellow Jackets' defense has not given up a touchdown this year.
"We understand why Georgia Tech is doing so much better," said Krivak. "Bobby Ross has a lot better athletes now than he had the first couple years down there."
Chief among these are Ken Swilling, a safety who ranks in the top 10 in career interceptions at Tech with nine, and linebacker Marco Coleman, the prime force in a pass rush that has recorded 12 sacks this year.
"I think," said Krivak, "our passing attack against their defense is a great matchup. Their pass rush is the key to their defense."
The category in which Maryland ranks highest nationally is passing offense. The Terps are No. 8 with 303.6 yards per game.
"Maryland has one of the finest passing attacks in all of college football," said Ross, "and they have a classic pro-type quarterback in Scott Zolak."
Zolak, a senior who is in his first year as starter, has passed for 304 yards a game. The Terps' Frank Wycheck, who left the Michigan game with a bad back with five minutes left, is one of the most productive receivers in the conference with 42 catches for 344 yards.
"Wycheck's status is day-by-day," said Krivak. "We have about nine people hurt, but I don't want to say they won't play. Two or three of them probably won't -- [tight end] Bret Boehly, [safety] Mike Thomas, [running back] Troy Jackson.
"I don't like to say that any game means more than another. No matter who you play you only get one win or one loss. But I think this is going to be a great football game. I just hope we get 40,000 or so at Byrd Stadium."
The noon game will be carried in Baltimore on WBAL Radio and on Channel 45 through Jefferson-Pilot. Advance ticket sales indicate a crowd of about 35,000 will be on hand.