Presto’s Picks: Kid-brother complex

WASHINGTON — College football embraces its tradition … And that tradition’s underbelly is its pecking order.

Bullies rule the conference roost for decades while the downtrodden remain so for an eternity. But then there is the middle class: schools that have been just good enough to give fans hope and expectations, but not entrenched enough to stay in rarefied air amid a bad coaching hire. This weekend a pair of “little brothers” take on two of the game’s blue bloods (even though one wears crimson and the other sports scarlet): No. 9 Tennessee takes on top ranked Alabama as the Volunteers look to prove this year has been more than fortunate bounces and self-destructing opponents, while No. 8 Wisconsin hosts second-rated Ohio State as the Badgers try to prove their one-possession loss at Michigan was an aberration.

Each school has been successful enough in the series over the year for the kid brother to be confident, while having to deal with the established powers chant of “banners.” Sometimes a little shake-up in midseason is fun. Could it happen this weekend?

Maryland (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) vs. Minnesota (3-2, 0-2) — noon, Big Ten Network

Terps quarterback Perry Hills and his injured shoulder is a question mark for the game, while the Golden Gophers QB Mitch Leidner suffered an injury in practice this week and won’t be able to play. Reports are they’ll start a walk-on — against a defense looking to bounce back from multiple breakdowns against Penn State. Regardless if Hills or true freshman Tyrell Pigrome is running the offense, they’ll be facing a D that ranks 13th in the Big Ten against the pass and is last in red zone defense.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 34-17.

Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC) vs Pitt (4-2, 1-1) — 12:30 p.m., ACC Network

The Cavaliers spent their bye week riding horses at coach Bronco Mendenhall’s farm: Don’t worry, I already checked and that’s not an NCAA violation. In corralling two straight victories, they’ve stretched the field better offensively. And while the defense still has issues (last in the ACC at stopping opponents on third down), the Panthers aren’t much better. Pitt can run and stop the run — and that’s about it. Kippy & Buffy return to tailgating with renewed vigor after the bye week, enjoying a Rappahannock Cellars Petit Verdot: “aromas of dark plum, butterscotch and cedar with flavors of coffee, clove and chocolate.” Best enjoyed with Stilton cheese on Captain’s Wafers.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come through, 30-20.

#17 Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) at Syracuse (2-4, 0-2) — 3:45 p.m., ESPNU

All of the sudden, coach Justin Fuente’s team is in the driver’s seat of the ACC’s Coastal Division: They’ve already beaten defending champ North Carolina and don’t have to play Clemson, Louisville or Florida State. They also boast the number one defense in the conference, are tops at stopping the pass and No. 1 in getting off the field (80 percent) on third down. Syracuse under first-year coach Dino Babers has passed for a ton of yards (ex-Maryland WR Amba Etta-Tawo has been a beast for the Orange). But a lot of the offense has been quantity as opposed to quality. Fans making the trip up are encouraged to make a detour to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que at some point.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle the Orange, 41-16.

Howard beats South Carolina State, Georgetown falls to Lehigh, Richmond slips at Villanova, William & Mary defeats Delaware, James Madison upends New Hampshire, Morgan State beats Hampton, Towson tumbles to Dartmouth.

Last Week: 4-4.

Overall: 41-11.

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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