After two heartbreaking losses to start the 2011 season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish currently sit at 6-3, having won six of its past seven games. The Irish have three games left in the regular season, and the #4 ranked Stanford Cardinal loom large as the final match up of the year. Notre Dame could enter that game facing a Cardinal team with a BCS championship berth potentially on the line, and a win up in Palo Alto would likely be the biggest victory during head coach Brian Kelly's time in South Bend. But before any of that can take place, Notre Dame needs to take care of business against the two worst teams in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Dumbfounding losses to massive underdogs were a hallmark of the Charlie Weis era, and Kelly— who has lost at home to Tulsa and South Florida in the past season and a half— hasn't necessarily been able to shake the bug either.
Up first is the Maryland Terrapins, and it would be hard to find any BCS conference team with less momentum and excitement around its program right now. After a rousing opening week victory over Miami to kick off the Randy Edsall era in College Park, the Terps have dropped seven of their last eight games, with the lone win coming against the FCS Towson Tigers. In its last three games, Maryland has been throttled by Florida State, given Boston College it's lone conference win and been ran out of the building in a humiliating home loss to Virginia. Maybe even worse is that the Terps fanbase has seemingly already turned on Edsall, who this week compared Maryland football to the expansion year Jacksonville Jaguars and the pre-FBS Connecticut Huskies.
The Terps come into the game with the 101st ranked defense in the country, which doesn't bode well for a team that's going up against a Notre Dame offense that's in the nation's top 40. Meanwhile, the Terps offense has been in disarray for weeks, with QB Danny O' Brien, last year's ACC Freshman of the Year, back off the bench, but still playing the worst football of his young career. If Maryland loses on Saturday, the calls for Edsall's head will grow louder, but then again, if Notre Dame somehow slips up, you could say the same for Brian Kelly.
For more on Saturday's game, stay tuned to SB Nation Chicago, or check out One Foot Down, SB Nation's Notre Dame Fighting Irish blog and Testudo Times, SB Nation's Maryland Terrapins blog.