COLLEGE PARK, Md. --- Despite getting off to a 1-3 start, Maryland is one of only five unbeaten teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
OK, so the Terrapins haven't played a league game yet.
But coach Ralph Friedgen and his players are desperate for a reason to be optimistic.
"I think we're fortunate to have played four pretty big games before starting the ACC," quarterback Chris Turner said. "We've faced some pretty good teams and a lot of situations have come up for us. We've seen in all."
Maryland opens conference play today at home against Clemson. The matchup represents a new beginning for a team in dire need of a feel-good moment.
"I think a win for us would go a long way," Turner said. "We realize we're off to a pretty poor start, but we haven't played an ACC game yet. If we can get a win, then we would go from there."
Clemson (2-2, 1-1) routed a Middle Tennessee team that defeated Maryland, which explains in part why the Tigers are favored by 121/2 points. But Clemson coach Dabo Swinney is doing everything he can to make sure his players don't take the Terrapins lightly.
"Maryland is off to a slow start, but Ralph Friedgen has been around a long time and has a tremendous track record. He will have this group ready to play," Swinney said. "They have our full attention after they beat us at Clemson last year."
Good try, coach, but that Maryland team had 30 seniors. This one has 14, and the inexperience has been painfully apparent. The Terrapins have a minus-10 turnover differential and gave the ball away five times last week in a 34-13 loss to Rutgers.
Even if they cut down on their miscues, the Terrapins will be pressed to beat the big, fast and skilled Tigers. Clemson has five 300-pounders on the offensive line, and the defense has allowed only three touchdowns in the last two games.
"They're a little different than last year with a new defensive coordinator (Kevin Steele), but they're the same old Clemson: Really good up front, talented secondary, good linebackers," Turner said.
WHO: Clemson (2-2, 1-1 ACC) at Maryland (1-3, 0-0 ACC)
TIME: Noon (ESPNU)
WHERE: Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Md.