WASHINGTON — By the middle of October, there’s often a bit of a shuffle atop the college football rankings. Usually there are arguments over which school should be number one, and every so often the writers’ rankings and coaches’ polls are split.
Not so in 2016, as Alabama is going through its schedule like a blowtorch through butter. The Crimson Tide rank sixth in the nation in scoring (45 points per game) and allow the seventh-fewest points in FBS (15 points per game). With the exception of their 48-43 shootout against Ole Miss — and, let the record show, the Tide led by 18 with three minutes left — they’ve pasted all comers. Coach Nick Saban appears to have this team in position to grab the school their fifth national title in eight years.
The last time they lost as the #1 team? To Texas A&M with Johnny Manziel in 2012. This week the Tide host the rested Aggies…who just happen to be unbeaten as well. Some games are just built for Verne Lundquist & Gary Danielson at 3:30.
Virginia (2-4, 1-1 ACC) vs. #22 North Carolina (5-2, 3-1), 3 p.m., ACC Network
For many old-school UVa fans, the team they really consider their rival isn’t Virginia Tech or Maryland — but UNC. To which Tar Heel fans shrug and focus on beating Duke while saying snarky things about NC State and ignoring Wake Forest. The defending Coastal Division champs are still smarting from a home loss to Virginia Tech…while boasting a video game-like offense, with Mitch Trubisky completing 70 percent of his passes and TJ Logan averaging 6.3 yards per carry. UVa’s defense remains a work in progress, ranking 13th in the ACC against the pass, 12th against the run and 13th overall. They’re also second to last in the league at getting off the field on third down (allowing 47 percent conversions), while Carolina ranks second in moving the chains (48 percent). Kippy & Buffy continue their tour through Virginia reds with a Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc: “With a few minutes of aeration the secondary aromas of black raspberries, spices and black pepper come to the party.” Also coming to the party? Gorgonzola cheese on sesame Bremner Wafers.
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up short, 30-19
#24 Navy (4-1, 3-0 AAC) vs. Memphis (5-1, 2-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network
One of the byproducts of Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath was the moving of Navy’s game with East Carolina from Thursday October 13 to November 19. After their upset of #6 Houston, the Mids probably needed a week to decompress. So far this fall, each of their three league wins have come by a touchdown or less. Under first-year coach Mike Norvell, the Tigers have picked up where Justin Fuente left off…and many forget they were 8-0 and ranked #13 when Navy knocked them off last year. I’m sure Memphis hasn’t forgotten, but they also haven’t forgotten how frustrating attempting to stop the triple-option is.
Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen make it happen, 27-24
Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (2-4, 0-3), 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
Hold on…the Terps are the 4-2 team, while the Spartans are the 2-4 unit that’s dropped four straight? Michigan State was ranked as high as #8 before crashing against Wisconsin and comes to College Park fresh off coughing up 50 points to Northwestern. Yes, Northwestern. A lot rides on the shoulder of Maryland quarterback Perry Hills.Even with the fifth-year senior in the lineup, this isn’t the best passing game. Without him, the Terps have scored 10 points in the last six quarters. Defensively, William Likely is questionable with a knee injury, something a shorthanded secondary can ill-afford against Tyler O’Connor and the Big Ten’s third-best passing game. O’Connor is not to be confused with the team’s previous quarterback Connor Cook…although part of me is hoping that Mark Dantonio is recruiting a kid named Cook O’Tyler to take his place.
Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 21-17
Howard loses to North Carolina A & T, Georgetown falls at Fordham, Richmond beats Elon, Towson tumbles at New Hampshire, Morgan State loses to North Carolina Central.
Last Week: 3-7 (Autumn technically began in September, but my fall is taking place in October)