Football teams are notorious for adhering to routines, and under coach Randy Edsall, Maryland is no different.
He doesn't want his players treating one game much differently than the next. Like a golf swing endlessly repeated, Edsall wants their preparation for each contest to be precise.
Maryland's insistence on sameness helps explain why Terps players were offering few indications that Saturday's meeting with North Carolina State presented an opportunity for perhaps their most significant victory since Edsall's arrival in early 2011.
"As a coach, you try to keep everything as normal and as routine as you possibly can," Edsall said.
But Saturday's game is different for a number of reasons. With a win, Maryland (4-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) would:
* Move to 3-0 in the conference for just the second time since 1985 and remain atop the Atlantic Division as the only team unbeaten in league play. The last time the Terps were 3-0 in the ACC was in 2001.
* Give Edsall his first victory against an ACC team with a winning record. Maryland's previous conference wins this season were against Virginia and Wake Forest — teams that are a combined 1-6 in the league.
* Have the Terps' first three-game winning streak since 2008.
* Exact a measure of revenge for last season's loss to the Wolfpack — one of the worst defeats in recent Maryland history. N.C. State came from 27 points behind in the third quarter to beat the Terps in the 2011 regular-season finale.
"It's a whole different Maryland team now … and going to College Park has been a tough place for us to play," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said this week.
The Wolfpack scored 42 unanswered points in the 56-41 victory — a game that had an enduring impact on both teams.
With the win, N.C. State became bowl eligible and went on to defeat Louisville in the Belk Bowl. The defeat meant Maryland entered the offseason with an eight-game losing streak.
"I'm worried about what we're going to do this Saturday, not what we did back last November," Edsall said.
Edsall's biggest Maryland win to date was probably his first. The Terps defeated Miami on national television in their 2011 season opener.
Edsall has a commemorative football in his office with the final score on it — Maryland 32, Miami 24.
In the Miami game, the Terps debuted their multi-colored "Pride" uniforms that are due to make an appearance this season — but probably not against N.C. State.
Edsall has faced a balancing act this week. He wants players to appreciate the magnitude of their challenge against the Wolfpack without losing focus.
N.C. State (4-2, 1-1 ACC) is led by fifth-year quarterback Mike Glennon, who is third in the ACC in passing yardage average (280.2 yards per game). The Wolfpack, coming off a bye week, upset Florida State in its last game.
Glennon "is probably the best pro-style quarterback we've seen," Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said. "He's a big, tall kid so trying to get balls blocked down at the line of scrimmage is going to be a challenge for us, which is something we like to do."
With a victory, Maryland would be one win shy of becoming bowl eligible.
"As a team we've talked about getting win No. 5, we've talked about getting to 3-0 in the league," Edsall said. "As kids understand, the more that you win, the more significant games become. But we haven't done anything differently in terms of preparation."
Maryland coaches like the team to stay on similar weekly schedules as much as possible — right down to the timing of the pregame meal.
It's homecoming weekend in College Park, but Edsall said that won't be a distraction either.
"There's no pep rallies. There's no dance after the game — any of that stuff," he said.
North Carolina State (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) vs. Maryland (4-2, 2-0 ACC)
Time: 3:30 p.m.
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
Radio: 105.7 FM, 980 AM
Last meeting: N.C. State beat Maryland, 56-41 on Nov. 26, 2011 in Raleigh, N.C.
Maryland offense vs. N.C. State defense: Maryland has won four of the last six meetings. The Terps hope for the return of freshman running back Wes Brown, who leads the team with 150 yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average. Maryland netted minus-2 yards rushing in last week's victory over Virginia. Brown (shoulder) is listed as questionable. N.C. State ranks in the middle of the ACC in total defense and scoring defense. The Wolfpack is led by linebackers Rickey Dowdy (1.3 tackles for loss per game) and Rodman Noel (1.0 tackles for loss).
Maryland defense vs. N.C. State offense: Maryland's defense is ranked ninth nationally despite surrendering 20 first downs and lots of big plays in a subpar effort at Virginia last week. N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon is sixth in the conference in passing efficiency. Wide receiver Bryan Underwood had a touchdown catch in a school-record sixth consecutive game in an upset over Florida State. Junior Quintin Payton leads the Wolfpack and is ninth in the ACC with 4.2 receptions per game.