- The Washington Times - Friday, October 26, 2001

Ralph Friedgen and the Maryland football team will try to walk on water in Tallahassee, Fla., tomorrow.

The Florida State football team does not lose at home in the ACC, not in 38 games, not ever. Most football teams take it one game at a time. The Seminoles have taken it one decade at a time in the ACC.

The Seminoles are 73-3 in the ACC since joining the center of the college basketball universe in 1992, with their only three losses occurring on the road: to Virginia in 1995, to N.C. State in 1998 and to North Carolina this season.

The Seminoles play football and put up with basketball season, the opposite of the ACC's other eight members. Coach Bobby Bowden is close to catching Joe Paterno, who is only catching grief at Penn State. One of the differences between the two legends is what passes as Florida State's competition in the ACC.

The 80,000 at Doak Campbell don't ask, "Who's going to win?" Between yawns, they ask,"By how much?" The tomahawk chop is their attempt to stay awake.

Teams don't go to Tallahassee to play football. They go there to work on their Lamaze technique before laying an egg.

The egg follows the flaming spear, delivered in contempt before the game by Chief Osceola atop Renegade.

"That's what they do," Friedgen says. "They intimidate from right when [they] throw that spear at you. I thought the cowboys won, though."

If there were a mercy rule, the ACC would have stopped these proceedings years ago. Or the ACC would have required the Seminoles to play with their hands tied behind their backs.

Charlie Ward was so good in football at Florida State that he won the Heisman Trophy and went to the NBA to be challenged.

But maybe this is the week the joke on the rest of the ACC comes to an end. Maybe it is not football business as usual in the ACC, too long the home of Florida State and the Eight Pipsqueaks.

The Seminoles are not what they once were, and that goes double for the Terrapins.

The Terps are 7-0, ranked No. 10 in the AP poll and destined to receive an invitation to their first bowl game since 1990.

Any bowl trip looks good to the Turtleheads at this point, even the Rogaine Nectarine/Your Mother Wears Combat Boots Bowl.

All the hosannas go to Friedgen, the improbable coach who counts takeaways and giveaways instead of calories.

Friedgen brings a lot of good stuff to the table, notably every food group imaginable. You have to love him. You would hug him if you could get your arms around him.

When he hosts "Breakfast with Fridge" the Friday before each home game, the fans pack their sleeping bags. Friedgen packs a knife and a fork, along with a pretty mean game plan.

"It will take a total effort for us to even have a chance to beat Florida State," he says.

That is coachspeak for the Seminoles lost to North Carolina 41-9, and the Terps defeated North Carolina 23-7 earlier in the season.

The Terps are not supposed to beat the Seminoles, of course, but they are not supposed to be 7-0, either. They are one of the eight undefeated teams left in the nation, and they are hanging out with the fast crowd in the first BCS standings, which come with an exhausting formula and a surgeon general's warning to take plenty of aspirin.

The Terps are facing a team grappling with indecision at quarterback, either Chris Rix or Adrian McPherson, both first-year performers.

Rix has committed eight turnovers in the last two games, the turnover being the bulwark of the Terps' season. The Terps have forced 25 turnovers in the seven games, a 3.6 average. The Terps are permitted to see hope in the numbers, their supporters the same.

The game is the principal attraction tomorrow, no flaming spear and mascot on a horse about it. The game is enough. Forget the 11 previous meetings between the programs, all Florida State. Forget, in particular, the meeting last season, a 59-7 ordeal for the Terps.

The Terps, for once, have a genuine chance against the Seminoles. Who knows? The crowd at Doak Campbell may have to watch the game to the end.

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