UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- University of Maryland football players refuse to be intimidated.
The Terps know the last time Maryland beat Penn State was 1961. And they know that the Nittany Lions have won 24 out of the past 25 meetings, with the Terps managing a 13-13 tie last season.
But even though Maryland never has won at Penn State, and the No. 21 Nittany Lions (6-2) are favored by 14 points today when they face Maryland at Beaver Stadium (1 p.m.), the Terps (5-4) look forward to the challenge.
"Look back over the series," said Maryland cornerback Scott Rosen. "Despite where either team is ranked, it's always a close game. Penn State is the biggest game on our schedule. So we don't plan to back off; we'll be ready to play."
At stake for Maryland is a chance to clinch its first winning season since 1985 and the first under Joe Krivak, who is in the fourth and final year of his coaching contract.
The Terps had a chance two weeks ago to ensure themselves a winning season and earn a bowl bid when they visited North Carolina, but they were routed, 34-10, in the team's worst performance of the year.
The bowl aspirations are gone, but a chance for a place in Maryland history is still available.
Krivak said the team has had a spirited week of practice. The Terps, because they were off last weekend, have had extra time to prepare for the Nittany Lions.
And maybe, just maybe, the Nittany Lions are looking past Maryland to their Nov. 17 game with top-ranked Notre Dame.
"All of those factors could play a part," said Krivak. "You never know, but we're not going into the game counting on Penn State overlooking us. We're going in expecting another Penn State-Maryland type game, one that is emotional and physical."
Penn State would seem to have more at stake than Maryland. A number of major bowl representatives will attend the game to watch the Nittany Lions, who have won six straight after losing to Texas and Southern Cal to open the season.
Last year, Penn State was seeking a major bowl bid, only to lose out because of the tie with Maryland.
"We've matured through the season, but we're not at the point where we can overlook anybody," said Penn State linebacker Mark D'Onofrio. "Maryland has played us tough every year. We can't afford to relax."
Penn State coach Joe Paterno said he again will start junior quarterback Tony Sacca (78-for-167, 1,240 yards, seven interceptions) against the Terps, even though senior backup Tom Bill (15-for-26, 235 yards, 0 interceptions) has been impressive the past two weeks, bailing the Nittany Lions out in victories over Alabama and West Virginia.
Krivak said his team is prepared to face either.
"It's just a luxury they have," said Krivak. "Sacca seems to have the stronger arm and has the ability to go deep. Bill has more mobility and comes up with the big play when they need it."
Both teams have been inconsistent throughout the season, which makes this game interesting.
Both teams also have relied on their defenses, even though Maryland's has weakened through the second half of the year. Penn State's defense, ranked eighth nationally, is allowing only 260 yards of total offense, but 177.9 passing. Maryland is allowing 334.0 per game after giving up nearly 290 a game during the first half of the season.
"Maybe teams are scouting us better and finding more weakness," Maryland cornerback Michael Hollis said. "Right now, don't know if there is a definite answer."
One thing for sure, Maryland can't use the same defensive philosophy to stop Penn State as the Terps used in previous years. Penn State is more balanced after years of being a run-oriented team.
Penn State is rushing for 187.1 yards and passing for 188.5 per game. "Defensively, that makes them tougher to handle," said Krivak.
Meanwhile, Maryland's offense should get a big boost with the return of starting H-back Frank Wycheck, who missed the North Carolina game with a thigh injury. Wycheck is the team's leading receiver with 54 receptions for 476 yards.
"That helps, but the key for us is to run effectively," said Maryland quarterback Scott Zolak, whose team is averaging 344.2 yards of total offense, including 265.2 passing. "We have to have balance to keep them off guard. They have one of the best and most disciplined defensive lines in the country."
How Maryland has fared
Penn State leads the series against Maryland, 31-1-1. The only time Maryland has beaten the Nittany Lions was in 1961, 21-17.
Year, Site Result
1917, Penn State L, 57-0
1937, Penn State L, 21-14
1938, Penn State L, 33-0
1939, Penn State L, 12-0
1943, Maryland L, 45-0
1944, Penn State L, 34-19
1960, Penn State L, 28-9
1961, Maryland W, 21-17
1962, Penn State L, 23-7
1963, Maryland L, 15-17
1964, Penn State L, 17-9
1965, Maryland L, 19-7
1966, Penn State L, 15-7
1967, Maryland L, 38-3
1968, Maryland L, 57-13
1969, Penn State L, 48-0
1970, Maryland L, 34-0
1971, Penn State L, 63-27
1972, Penn State L, 46-16
1973, Maryland L, 42-22
1974, Penn State L, 24-17
,31975, Maryland L, 15-13
1977, Penn State L, 27-9
1978, Penn State L, 27-3
1979, Maryland L, 27-7
1980, Maryland L, 24-10
1982, Penn State L, 39-31
1984, Penn State L, 25-24
1985, Maryland L, 20-18
1986, Penn State L, 17-15
1987, Baltimore L, 21-16
1988, Penn State L, 17-10
1989, Baltimore T, 13-13