Presto’s Picks: Lost in Lincoln

WASHINGTON — While the closing of the local swimming pools is usually the figurative end for summer, it doesn’t really feel like autumn until we start to hear about the hot seats in college football. And while there is one at Nebraska after the Cornhuskers began the season 1-2, any heat Mike Riley feels is now obscured by the hot mess that is the firing of Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst.

Sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Nebraska dominated the Big Eight and its successor the Big 12 (also known as the Big XII on some logos) before joining the Big Ten (which had previously been dealing with an 11-team membership for two decades). They went from being a senior partner in a firm they helped create to becoming a junior associate that can’t even win the easier West division (let the record show the Huskers did win one Legends Division before the Big Ten regained its mind). And now they’re not even the new kid in town who wears red (expanding with Maryland and Rutgers mean 50% of the league wears some shade of that color) anymore.

While Nebraska men’s basketball — the only power five conference school that is winless in the NCAA Tournament — has gone from playing in the 8-vs-9 game the first day of the Big 12 Tournament to playing in the 12-vs-13 game the first day of the Big Ten Tournament, the football program no longer has a schedule that allows easy access to recruits in Texas, or games against Iowa State and Kansas. The same people who couldn’t wait to get rid of Frank Solich (.753 winning percentage) a decade ago couldn’t wait to be done with Bo Pellini (.713 winning percentage)…and now those same people are wondering if they can buy out Mike Riley, who is 16-13 with mostly Pellini’s players. Thankfully, the Huskers begin league play with games against Rutgers and Illinois.

Friday games

Virginia (2-1) at Boise State (2-1), 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

A battle of 2-1 teams takes place on the blue turf in the Gem State…but not all 2-1’s are alike. The Broncos lost in triple-overtime at a ranked Washington State after losing their starting quarterback to injury, while the Cavaliers were soundly beaten at home by a second-tier Big Ten school. Brett Rypien could potentially return for BSU — although Montell Cozart is a dual threat that gives teams like UVa fits (they’ve coughed up 32, 89 and 90 yards rushing to the three starting quarterbacks they’ve faced this fall). Despite name recognition, Bronco Mendenhall went just 2-2 (and 0-2 on the road) against the Broncos when he coached BYU. Something about that blue field…

Kippy & Buffy tailgate for their first road and night game…looking for sweets. Thank goodness my Uncle Chris and Aunt Kristi own a chocolate shop in Boise. The Chocolat Bar specializes in truffles…and my UVa friends will enjoy those with a bottle of Saracco Moscato d’Asti 2016: “Sweet and seductive as the hills where it is born and grows; as vibrant and sharp as the mountains that surround and protect the land on the horizon; refreshing and effervescent, like the wind rushing down from the Alps towards their hills.” Add a singing nun and we’ve got something here.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up short, 38-24

Saturday’s games

#13 Virginia Tech (3-0) vs. Old Dominion (2-1), 2 p.m. (ACC Network Extra)

While the ACC schedule kicks off against defending national champ Clemson next weekend, college football’s version of “Linner” (not lunch, but definitely not dinner) has the Hokies playing a local foe for the fourth straight week. Pass protection will be a priority, as the Monarchs lead the nation with 16 sacks this season. The Hokies, by comparison, have allowed three sacks over three games. Redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson’s education is a little easier when he has three seniors and two juniors up front protecting him…and having Cam Phillips (nine catches and 139 yards receiving per game) can’t hurt either.

ODU’s offense behind turnover-prone quarterback Blake LaRussa has been decidedly underwhelming, and the defense allowed 53 points to North Carolina team that’s an underdog at home to Duke this week. Not that anybody is looking ahead to the Clemson game. That’s in Blacksburg, right?

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle the Monarchs, 45-13

Maryland (2-0) vs UCF (1-0), 3 p.m. (FS1)

The Terps are coming off on an odd early-season bye (they did have week two off in 2011, but that was after playing the previous Monday night). Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are coming off of two weeks off due to the hurricane devastation of the Sunshine State — UCF’s game with Georgia Tech was canceled and their conference tilt with Memphis was moved (major credit to the AAC for being able to reshuffle the league schedule, jenga-style).

Quarterback McKenzie Milton made his first career start last year against Maryland — and threw for 260 yards while accounting for all three of their touchdowns in a double-overtime defeat. Whether you read “Paradise Lost” or watch “Office Space” in your spare time, containing Milton in the pocket will go a long way towards remaining in the Garden of Unbeatens, as well as stapling another victory to the 2017 resume. Last year’s game was won by true freshman Tyrrell Pigrome’s feet in double-overtime; this year true freshman Kasim Hill will be contributing from the opening possession.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins Triumph, 44-20

Navy (2-0, 1-0 AAC) vs. Cincinnati (2-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

Before you ask me, “Why is Cincinnati in the AAC East and Navy in the AAC West?” just remember that the Bearcats should be in the Big 12 as a travel partner with West Virginia, if only for the Bob Huggins effect during hoops season (Houston is the school that won’t make things an even dozen, because the Big 12 schools are petty). While the Mids had a week off to digest their near-defeat at home to Tulane (and watch the Green Wave get bludgeoned by Oklahoma), Cincy is coming off of a 21-17 win over Miami (Ohio version) and boasts an offense that remains a work in progress. The Bearcats rank last in the AAC in total offense and third down conversions, while gaining 3.2 yards per carry and completing just over 50 percent of their passes. If Navy is going to contend for a West Division title, the defense that returned six starters needs to make a statement Saturday in Annapolis.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen make it happen, 28-14

Howard beats Bethune-Cookman, Georgetown loses at Columbia, James Madison mauls Maine, Richmond rips Elon, Towson tumbles at Stony Brook.

Last Week: 5-2  Overall: 18-5

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).

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up