The Washington Times - October 26, 2007, 11:07AM

\ With football, there is a tiring build-up to each game. It doesn’t have the routinized regularity of a baseball season, or the pitch-perfect cadence of a twice-a-week college basketball schedule.\

\ So each week’s game gets hyped a little bit more than it should. And tomorrow’s Maryland-Clemson matchup is no exception.\

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\ The Terrapins’ season does not rise and fall on this outcome. Sure, their faint ACC title hopes evaporate with a loss. But tomorrow means as much for the perception of the final month as anything else.\

\ Maryland’s lengthy list of injuries leaves it in a bind this week (and possibly for a few more). And while it’s nice to talk about chasing a conference title, anyone who has watched this team deal with bad break after bad break would concede the shrinking numbers on the roster should mean a redefinition of a successful season.\

\ Players don’t want to hear that. Ralph doesn’t want to hear that. And that’s a good thing.\

\ Yet at this juncture, a 7-5 season should be viewed as a pretty good year. A bowl berth should be seen as a success.\

\ And that’s why collecting a victory tomorrow carries with it an intangible benefit.\

\ “If we can get a win with the reserves that are in, that will boost their confidence and hopefully we can get it going,” tight end Joey Haynos said. “We don’t want to be 4-4 at all, no way. At 5-3, we’re one game away from bowl eligibility [and] we’re just motivated and going down to North Carolina. At 4-4, that’s tough. We have to get a win this week.”\

\ The Terps’ schedule for the final month looks more harrowing now than it did when the season started. A trip to North Carolina isn’t a gimme. Boston College is undefeated. Traveling to Florida State is never easy. And then there’s the finale at N.C. State, which showed some life last week by beating East Carolina.\

\ That’s an unpleasant stretch for a 4-4 team on a two-game skid that needs a split just to become bowl eligible. It’s not so bad for a 5-3 bunch that bounced back from rough losses twice already and is still harboring dreams of spending Dec. 1 in Jacksonville.\

\ “One week can make things look terrible or making things look not-too-bad and promising,” safety Christian Varner said. “That’s definitely on my mind. It’s crazy how one week can do that. … If we’re 5-3, we’re thinking a bowl game is probably going to happen and we have a shot to be in the ACC championship. At 5-3, everything’s intact.”\

\ Friedgen didn’t want to get into that subject too much, though he conceded the conference title is probably out of reach with another loss.\

\ “What you like when you have a disappointing loss is to make up for it,” Friedgen said. “I think you have to be careful about putting too much on every game because you really have to play the whole thing out and see where you’re at. Some games are bigger than others. I think you have to work at not getting too high or two low and go back to work each week.”\

\ Work would be a lot easier to return to on Monday, though, at 5-3.\

\ – Patrick Stevens