No NFL general manager watches the Nittany Lions more closely than the Cleveland Browns' Ernie Accorsi, who was once sports information director at Penn State and has kept up a rabid interest in the school.
"It's a really good defensive team," says Accorsi, who will be here to scout the game. "The quarterback [Tony Sacca] has tremendous ability. Paterno says Terry Smith is the best all-around receiver he's ever had, but I really like the other wideout, O.J. McDuffie.
"The tailback from Maryland [Richie Anderson, from Sandy Spring] is coming into his own. But the one who can take this team to another level is Sacca."
Warning to Maryland quarterback Jim Sandwisch: Penn State has an outstanding pass rush. Says Paterno: "The reason it's so good is we don't rely on just two, three or four people. We have eight kids who can play and they really go at it."
Most people measure Paterno by his accomplishments on the field: two national championships, 21 bowl games, the most total victories (236) among active coaches. But consider what his players have done in the classroom: 19 first-team academic All-Americans, 10 Hall of Fame Scholar-Athletes, 14 NCAA post-graduate scholarship winners.
* Within walking distance of the Maryland-Penn State game Saturday afternoon there will be another college game that shows one of the big differences between Division I and Division III football -- Franklin and Marshall (5-3) at Johns Hopkins (4-3-1).
F&M; is coached by Tom Gilburg, a Baltimore Colt from the '60s. He was talking yesterday about the coaching job being done at Hopkins by Jim Margraff.
"Jim has done an excellent job," Gilburg said, "but he has some full-time help on his staff." Margraff has one full-time aide, Bob Benson. How much help does Gilburg have? "Zero, and it's been that way for 17 years," he said. Despite that, Gilburg has won 73.2 percent of his games and four conference titles. Penn State and Maryland have a dozen coaches each.
* Oriole Park at Camden Yards (whew!) will begin to look more like an actual ball field by this time next week. The turf that has been growing on the Eastern Shore for a year and a half will be put down at that time.
* Nolan Rogers, just back from a trip to Beijing to get lacrosse started in China, reports that the U.S. National Team, which won the World Championship last year in Australia, will go to China next August -- after the Barcelona Olympics -- to play exhibitions and promote the sport.
Rogers, general manager of the U.S. team, is optimistic that the Chinese will take up lacrosse. Says he: "They're great field hockey players and they see lacrosse as similar. When you try to spread the game to Japan you have to go to all these colleges and do a selling job. In China it's so centralized. If the minister of sport wants lacrosse, it's in."
* I love Toots Barger, one of the grand ladies of sport in Baltimore and Maryland, but I'm not in sympathy with her efforts to have duckpin bowling replace jousting as our state sport.
The mistake was made in 1962, when anything -- particularly little-known jousting -- was declared our state sport. From day one, naturally, that created resentment and jealousy from other sports, which is one reason only two of the 50 states have a state sport at all.
For 20 years lacrosse people have seethed over this jousting thing. Now Toots and the bowlers are up in arms. What next? Baseball? Basketball?
* Basketball ref Jim Gallagher, of local Board 23, reports there will be no jump balls in Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association games this winter. Games will start with a coin flip to determine possession.