Presto’s Picks: Glasses half-full, half-empty, and broken

WASHINGTON — The four local Division I FBS schools have all played six games…and while each had a different set of expectations coming into the season, those hopes often change by mid-October.

For instance, nobody thought Virginia would double its win total from the previous year before Columbus Day and be in position to go bowling for the first time since 2011. The Cavaliers’ glass (read below to see what they’re pouring) is more than half-full. Virginia Tech came into 2017 expecting to compete for another Coastal Division title…and barring a hiccup at home over the next two Saturday’s that’s what they’ll get in early November at a nationally ranked Miami team. Navy learned it’s in for a long battle to return to the AAC Championship game…but is safe at quarterback for the time being in Zach Abey. And Maryland? The Terps are right where they were in late-August…looking to scrape together six wins and make a bowl. Looking ahead, they need victories over Indiana and Rutgers to have a prayer…and somehow need an upset over Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan or Wisconsin. All four of those schools are currently ranked in the Top 20.

Saturday’s Games

Maryland (3-3, 1-2 Big Ten) at #5 Wisconsin (6-0, 3-0), noon (FOX)

Another national showcase involving the not-ready-for-prime-time Terps has them battling the Badgers at high noon…although it will technically be 11 a.m. in Madison. Hopefully the dining halls will open up early so the students can load up on Monte Cristo sandwiches before heading to Camp Randall. The Terp defense that’s allowing a Big Ten-high 36.5 points per game will have its hands full with Jonathan Taylor (a Big Ten-best 164 yards per game with 10 touchdowns this fall) and an offense that converts 54 percent of its third downs. Wisconsin is also #1 in the league at stopping the run and we saw what happened last week when the Terps’ tailback tandem averaged under three yards per carry. I fully expect Max Bortenschlager to get the ball to DJ Moore a ridiculous amount of times…but also fully expect the conference’s best pass rush (20 sacks in six games) to plant Max in the turf early and often.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 41-16

Virginia (5-1, 2-0 ACC) vs. Boston College (3-4, 1-3), 12:30 p.m. (ACC Network)

Does one credit the Eagles with a 45-42 upset of Louisville or realize that the Cardinals are major frauds this fall? What isn’t up for debate is the 272 rushing yards produced by freshman AJ Dillon…and that the Cavaliers rank ninth in the ACC in stopping the run. But they’ve been solid everywhere else on that side of the ball, from #1 against the pass to #4 on getting off the field on third down. BC is the very definition of “one dimensional” this fall (13th in the conference in passing and last in passing efficiency) and last weekend’s outburst was the first time the school had posted 30+ points in a league game since 2014. Kippy & Buffy can taste bowl eligibility as well as a Cross Key Cabernet Franc: “Aubergine and opaque in the glass; redolent of raspberry compote with hints of fennel.” Strong suggestions of bleu cheese on Triscuits to complete the fun.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come through, 26-16

#14 Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1 ACC) vs. North Carolina (1-6, 0-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Somewhow UNC has already lost more games this fall than they did in all of 2016. Blame the worst defense in the ACC, as well as an offense that ranks last in converting third downs. It doesn’t help that the Tar Heels have a mess at the quarterback position…as the freshman-grad transfer combination of Chazz Surratt and Brandon Harris has produced just the wrong combination of inexperience and limitations (as opposed to potential and experience).  Speaking of quarterbacks, the Hokies Josh Jackson has thrown four interceptions over his last three games. Good thing he’s going up against a very forgiving UNC D.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies win big, 38-14

Navy (5-1, 3-1 AAC) vs. #20 UCF (5-0, 3-0), 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN)

The Knights (they dropped the Golden last decade when they moved away from “Central Florida” #branding) blew away Maryland last month and haven’s slowed down one bit. McKenzie Milton is completing 70% percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions (one coming at Maryland) for the highest-scoring offense in the AAC. The Mids aren’t horrible against the pass, but they aren’t great against it by any stretch of the imagination. UCF is also plus-8 in the turnover battle, and Navy’s minus-5 is the red flag no ship wants to fly.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen fall at home, 33-22

Howard beats Morgan State, Georgetown edges Fordham, Richmond falls at Delaware, James Madison beats William & Mary.

Last Week: 7-1

Overall: 42-12

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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