for Maryland and the ACC

August 30, 2002

Can the Terps withstand such a long schedule?

The team plays 13 games this season, the longest schedule in school history and one that will reveal how well the back of All-America linebacker E.J. Henderson holds up after surgery. That said, Maryland gets the benefit of Akron, Eastern Michigan and Wofford in September, and 12 days between West Virginia on Oct. 5 and Georgia Tech on Oct. 17. By that time, the veterans might be well-rested and the younger players more seasoned.

How do you replace Shaun Hill?

By taking the good with the bad. Whether it's Chris Kelley or Scott McBrien, Maryland's starting quarterback should have a stronger arm than Hill had, and Kelley is certainly a better athlete, his knees notwithstanding. But Hill provided leadership, rarely made the big mistake and started to make big plays toward the end of the season. Time will tell if Kelley or McBrien can grow into that type of presence.

What will bounce Maryland's way in 2002?

The nonconference schedule certainly does, giving the Terrapins four near-certain wins. (Maryland needs to go just 7-6 to be bowl eligible.) On the other hand, if the team should stumble tomorrow against Notre Dame, a loss to Florida State could leave the Terps with a 1-2 record in mid-September, robbing Maryland of the momentum it built last year before it hit the meat of the league schedule. As for the injury bug the Terps escaped last season, it remains to be seen whether the team can do the same this year, though Bruce Perry's groin injury -- keeping him out four to eight weeks -- does not bode well.

Is Florida State back?

We'll believe it when we see it. While there's an allowance for youth, which the Seminoles had plenty of last season, an early 41-9 loss to North Carolina never really lit a fire under a team prone to playing well in halves rather than games. As usual, there's talent galore returning to match the No. 3 preseason ranking, and this team can probably win the ACC. However, this season's Jekyll and Hyde debut against Iowa State -- a 38-31 victory last weekend -- doesn't suggest a focus worthy of an elite team at this point.

What happened to Georgia Tech?

The Yellow Jackets entered the 2001 season as national title hopefuls and came out of it as one of the nation's great disappointments. Though the offense has holes to fill everywhere, look for Tech to challenge for second place (to Florida State, of course), because of a defense that returns nine of 11 starters from last year, including All-America defensive end Greg Gathers.

Can Duke win a game?

The Blue Devils get their shot against Navy on Sept. 28. Other than that, the prospects aren't good in Durham, where basketball dominates and football continues to lose -- 23 in a row. The Blue Devils have a talented player in tailback in Chris Douglas and an incentive to save coach Carl Franks' job, but they might be looking at another 0-fer at the end of this season.

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