- The Washington Times - Monday, November 11, 2002

Maryland continued its ascent toward college football's upper class yesterday as it returned to the Associated Press poll for the first time since the preseason.
The Terrapins, who earned the last spot in the coaches' poll last week, were ranked 19th in both polls yesterday.
The return to the rankings comes on the heels of the Terps' 24-21 comeback win Saturday over then 14th-ranked N.C. State. Maryland (8-2, 4-1 ACC) ran its winning streak to seven games and continues to chase No.15 Florida State (7-3, 6-0) in its quest to repeat as ACC champion and earn a return trip to a BCS bowl.
"I don't know if we are in the elite of college football yet," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We will have to see how we do the next three games. I think if we can win out, our record would put us right in the thick of a lot of things. I don't know how many teams you can see win out, be 11-2 and not be rated somewhere in the top 10."
The Terps, who visit Clemson Saturday, took over second place in the league with the victory over the Wolfpack (9-2, 4-2). They now can land in one of the ACC's top two bowls.
The conference champion earns a BCS bid, likely the Orange Bowl. Florida State is assured of that berth if it beats North Carolina this week and wins at N.C. State Nov.23. If Maryland wins its last three against unranked foes including a visit to Virginia and at home against Wake Forest and the Seminoles lose a conference game, the two would be co-champions.
Florida State, which beat Maryland 37-10 Sept.14, would earn the BCS bid on the head-to-head tiebreaker. The only exception would be if the Terps are ranked five spots higher in the final BCS poll. That could happen if the Seminoles lose a league game and then lose their regular season non-conference finale against No.20 Florida.
If Maryland finishes 11-2 and Florida State wins its final two league games, the Terps will play in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan.1. A twist of fate could produce a rematch with Notre Dame, which defeated the Terps 22-0 in the season opener. The Gator Bowl pits the ACC's second choice against the Big East's second pick or Notre Dame. If the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish don't get a BCS bid, they would be a virtual lock for the Gator. Pittsburgh, ranked 18th, and No.13 Virginia Tech also are possibilities, assuming top-ranked Miami wins the Big East. A Maryland loss could drop it to the Peach Bowl.
With the way his team is playing, it comes as no surprise Friedgen is in favor of a playoff system that rewards teams that improve through the season rather than eliminate them because of early-season losses. The coach envisions Division I-A dwindling to about 60 teams with five "super-conferences" of around 12 teams. Those leagues would hold conference championships, and a two- or three-game playoff would follow.
"Now that we are playing 13 games and stuff, what's a few more," Friedgen said.
The reason the Terps are talking about another ACC title is because Saturday they showed they could overcome adversity. Maryland, which hadn't been in a game decided by fewer than 22 points before Saturday, twice rallied from 14-point deficits against N.C. State.
The Terps trailed 21-7 in the third quarter before tying the game on a 9-yard touchdown run by tailback Bruce Perry and a 21-yard scoring run by Scott McBrien, which came after a momentum-shifting interception from Domonique Foxworth. Nick Novak made the game-winning 26-yard field goal with 34 seconds remaining. Steve Suter, who scored Maryland's first touchdown on a 64-yard end around, set up Novak's game-winning kick with a 36-yard reception.
Novak's boot was ultimately the difference, but the Wolfpack's Adam Kiker missed a 28-yard field goal that would have put N.C. State ahead 24-14 with 11:20 left.
"The ebbs and flows could have gone either way," Friedgen said. "It came down to they missed a field goal and we made one."
Maryland came out of the N.C. State game fairly injury-free. Cornerback Curome Cox suffered a sprained shoulder and will not participate in contract drills in practice. He is expected to play Saturday. Tailback Chris Downs has a sprained ankle. Perry continues to have a sore shoulder. Center Kyle Schmitt is likely to miss a third straight game with a sprained shoulder.
The Terps have lost eight straight at Clemson.

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