The Washington Times - November 2, 2007, 11:11AM

\ * Maryland has dropped two straight and seems to lose a starter or two every week.\

\ * North Carolina is tough at home despite its 2-6 overall record, beating Miami in Chapel Hill and seriously testing Virginia and South Carolina.\

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\ * North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates ranks third in the ACC in both passing yards and pass efficiency.\

\ * Butch Davis inherited a program with virtually no running backs; as a result, the Tar Heels are predictably averaging a meager 2.9 yards a carry.\

\ * Maryland has not lost to North Carolina since 2000, an utterly miserable 13-10 game that effectively sealed Ron Vanderlinden’s fate (the Terps were run out of Byrd by a superior Georgia Tech team a week later).\

\ All right, the last one is just a factoid rather than a variable. But it stands to reason a November trip to Kenan Stadium will determine the fate of this bunch just as it did with Vanderlinden’s final team seven years ago.\

\ If the Terps lose, they fall to 4-5 with No. 2 Boston College coming to Byrd in yet another Matt Ryan showcase game. Things already aren’t too pretty; it could get worse with a setback tomorrow.\

\ If Maryland wins, it is assured of having something to play for in every game the rest of the way. It would stem some of the concern from the last two weeks, and it would probably result in a looser bunch when Ryan arrives in College Park next weekend.\

\ It won’t come easy (nothing ever does with this bunch). Yates has thrown for 285 yards in both of his last two games, and he should carve up the Terps as well as any other passer has this season. His talent, Carolina’s receiving options and the Tar Heels’ lack of a dynamic rushing attack lead me to believe he’ll throw for more than 300 yards.\

\ That doesn’t mean it will be enough. Carolina ranks ninth in the ACC in rushing defense, so Maryland has a chance to have an effective rushing day despite its depleted offensive line. And while the Tar Heels rank third in the conference in passing defense, they allow opponents to complete 63.5 percent of their passes. (Only Duke is worse). Maryland ranks second in completion percentage at 66.0 percent. (Only Wake Forest is better). If the dink-and-dunk approach should work against anyone, it’s the Tar Heels.\

\ So the call is Maryland 24, North Carolina 20. If the Tar Heels shred the Terps’ defense as Virginia and Clemson did, the howling from fans to replace defensive coordinator Chris Cosh (more on that in tomorrow’s print edition) will increase exponentially. If the Terps’ offense struggles because of its thin line, it’ll be clear the final three games will be too long a slog for this undermanned bunch.\

\ But I think those potential frustrations will be assuaged to some degree – at least for a week, anyway.\

\ – Patrick Stevens