Presto’s Picks: All’s fair in the state of Texas

WASHINGTON — The Texas State Fair is…like everything else in the Lone Star State, completely and ridiculously overblown.  And that’s what gives the fair its unquestionable charm.

Its proper name is “The State Fair of Texas” (for those sticklers) and usually begins the last Friday in September, lasting 24 days. The food…well, let’s just say you don’t often run into “deep-fried bacon burger dog slider on a stick” on many menus. Since 1929, the centerpiece of the event has been the Cotton Bowl — the Texas-Oklahoma football game — which has evolved from an inter-conference showdown (a moment of silence for the Southwest and Big Eight Conferences, please?) to a Big 12 battle for what recently has been 3rd or 4th place in the conference.

Twelve times this century the two schools have been ranked entering the game, with four of those years featuring the Sooners and Longhorns each in the Top 5. That will not be the case this October…as both teams are 2-2 after giving up a mountain of points (35 ppg by OU and 41 ppg by UT). Both have coaches on respective hot seats and fan bases with selective memories about glory days gone by. You might be best served by skipping the game entirely and enjoying the “Deep Fried Pulled Pork Funyuns Dings”.

Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Penn State (3-2, 1-1), noon, Big Ten Network

Let me start by saying this is NOT A RIVALRY. The Nittany Lions do not have rivals. They even said so, right there on last year’s media guide cover: “UNRIVALED.” The school repeated said mantra when facing non-conference-but-in-state foes Pitt and Temple earlier this year…and printed “UNRIVALED” atop this week’s preview materials.

Never mind that these two schools reside in states bordering one another and compete over many of the same recruits. Never mind that these two teams have traded a pair of one-point victories in the other schools’ backyard the last two years. Never mind that the former coach-in-waiting in College Park is the guy running the show in State College. What is certain is that Penn State has issues stopping the run (12th in the Big Ten) while the Terps lead the conference in yards per carry (a robust 6.5 per attempt). Offensively, the Nittany Lions are the worst team in the league at converting third downs…and will have issues containing a pass rush that averages 3.5 sacks per game.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 28-17.

Navy (3-1, 2-0 AAC) vs #6 Houston (5-0, 2-0), 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network

The Midshipmen have to bounce back not only from a tough loss at Air Force, but also a tough loss to their defense, as linebacker Daniel Gonzales (co-captain and second-leading tackler) is done for the season with a foot injury. That’s very bad news when preparing to face a Cougars offense led by Greg Ward Jr. and his 71% completion rate, 331 passing yards per game, and 8 TD tosses this fall. Even with senior quarterback Will Worth playing well, Navy lives and dies by its running game. The Cougar D is the stingiest in the AAC on third down (allowing conversions 26% of the time) and leads the conference in fewest yards per carry allowed (1.6).

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen come up short, 36-14.

#25 Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC) at #17 North Carolina (4-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m.

How is this game not on even one of the ESPN’s? Instead, ESPNU gives us Iowa State-Oklahoma State, two teams that have combined for six losses this fall. The former bully of the Coastal Division block (five division titles from 2005-11) meets the reigning division champ. UNC is coming off one heck of a win over Florida State, while the Hokies had last weekend off. The Tar Heels are led by QB Mitch Trubisky (76% completion rate, 13 TD’s and no interceptions) but boast a defense that’s been extremely accommodating this fall, allowing 32 points per game. Can coach Justin Fuente’s consistently uneven ground game click against the worst run defense in the ACC?

Presto’s Pick: Hokies hang on, 33-30.

Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC), off

The Hoos have the week off…meaning Kippy & Buffy turn their attention from rooting madly (with dignity) for their Cavaliers to boarding up the cottage in the Outer Banks. This weekend’s weather system forced their hand, as they had to burn a personal day during the week. What won’t change is the sparkling wine and caviar that accompanies the annual boarding-up…that would be sacrilege. This year Kippy & Buffy toast another great summer by enjoying a bottle of Veritas Vineyard & Winery Scintilla: “Characteristically the wine is made in a Brut style (less than 12g/L). Fresh bubbles of meyer lemon fill the palate with a delicate mousse that fades into a lasting finish.” Cheers…

Howard falls to Monmouth, Georgetown beats Princeton, James Madison beats William & Mary, Richmond falls at Albany, Towson slips to Stony Brook, Morgan State beats Savannah State.

Last Week: 7-2

Overall: 37-7

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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