Presto’s Picks: Clash in the commonwealth

WASHINGTON — As we begin November — college football’s “closing month” –fans in the commonwealth of Virginia are treated to a Top 10 matchup with conference and national title implications. On a Saturday where Virginia and Virginia Tech are both out of state, James Madison and Richmond meet with plenty on the line.

Both schools entered the season with high hopes (the Spiders were #4 in the FCS Preseason Poll while the Dukes were #11) and have more than exceeded expectations. Richmond’s year began with an upset of Virginia, while JMU is the only school still unbeaten in CAA play. They rank 1-2 in the conference in scoring while using different approaches.

Richmond’s led by junior quarterback Kyle Lauletta’s CAA-best 274 passing yards per game, while James Madison’s top ranked ground game boasts the tailback tandem of Khalid Abdullah (119 yards per game) and Cardon Johnson (84 ypg). Last year’s showdown in Harrisonburg saw the Spiders prevail 59-49 to ruin Homecoming for the Dukes. This year’s game may very well determine who gets home field for a potential FCS Playoff matchup.

Navy (5-2) vs. Notre Dame (3-5) in Jacksonville, 11:30 a.m., CBS

Saturday mornings around 11:30 a.m. should be reserved for cartoons and badly acted live-action shows featuring teens. The Midshipmen try to recover from coughing up 52 points in the sunshine state the previous weekend, while the Fighting Irish have had an underwhelming autumn that has seen the firing of a defensive coordinator, as well as an offense that vanished for much of October. This is technically a home game for Navy even though Jacksonville is nowhere near Annapolis; the Fighting Irish only play three “true road games” this fall. Must be nice to be an independent.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen almost pull off an upset, 28-24

Virginia (2-6, 1-3 ACC) at Wake Forest (5-3, 2-2), 3 p.m., ACC Network

Can the Cavaliers bounce back from the heartbreak of last week’s last-minute loss to #5 Louisville? Saturday’s showdown is a battle between the ACC’s most ineffective offense (Wake ranks 121st nationally in scoring) against the league’s most accommodating defense (UVa’s 32.6 points per game allowed ranks 103rd). Is this where we say “something has to give?”

Kippy & Buffy celebrate their trip to Winston-Salem by enjoying a bottle of Breaux Vineyards Meritage (I know what you’re thinking — this should have been used for the Duke tailgate as the Blue Devils are the ultimate “Bro” school). Tasting notes include “flavors of blackberry cobbler and plum skins while cedar shavings mix with some earthy, forest floor and roasted coffee notes.” Break out the Manchego cheese with Wheat Thins.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come through, 29-23

Maryland (5-3, 2-3 Big Ten) at #2 Michigan (8-0, 5-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPN

The Wolverines’ defense allows the fewest yards and points in the Big Ten while leading the conference in sacks per game. The Terps have a hand in their success, as coach DJ Durkin was Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator last fall. Perhaps he wishes he wasn’t as thorough in coaching this unit up? The Maryland offensive line just happens to allow the most sacks in the conference. Perry Hills is already scrambling in his sleep. Meanwhile, the Maryland defense is recovering from allowing 414 yards rushing to Indiana … decidedly not ideal as one heads into Ann Arbor. The late Bo Schembechler has to be licking his chops.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins Tumble, 34-15

#19 Virginia Tech (6-2, 4-1 ACC) at Duke (3-5, 0-4), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

First-year starting quarterbacks are not created equal. While junior college transfer Jerod Evans leads the ACC in passing efficiency, Blue Devils freshman Daniel Jones ranks last in the conference in that category. Duke also ranks last in the league in turnover margin — another reason why they are the lone remaining winless team in league play. Their victory at Notre Dame is their outlier this fall, just as Virginia Tech’s loss at Syracuse is theirs. Jones will be a good quarterback eventually for coach David Cutcliffe — just not this year.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies move closer to a Coastal Division crown, 35-24

#5 James Madison (7-1, 5-0 CAA) at #6 Richmond (7-1, 4-1), CSN+

First-year coach Mike Houston may be bringing the #1 running game in the conference to the capital city, but the Dukes are far from one-dimensional, as junior quarterback Bryan Schor leads the CAA in passing efficiency. Can JMU’s defense contain lead back Lauletta and go-to receiver Brian Brown? Just as the Dukes have issues stopping the pass, the Spiders have not been the best at containing the run this fall. All signs point toward another shootout … with both schools gearing up for a potential rematch with even higher stakes.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes outscore the Spiders, 44-38

Georgetown loses at Holy Cross, William & Mary slips at Stony Brook, Towson tumbles to Elon, Morgan State beats Bethune-Cookman.

Last Week: 6-4

Overall: 58-23

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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