Presto’s Picks: Turkey day edition

WASHINGTON — Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday growing up, where to this day even the bad ones are better than most. As college football’s regular season winds down, the local table is bountiful.

James Madison’s unbeaten season is the turkey at the center of the table. The Dukes have gone 11-0 as defending FCS champs and begin their tournament run next weekend as the number one seed. The dressing/stuffing (I believe one is elected, the other is appointed) is Navy and Virginia Tech being pleasantly surprised with the success of first year quarterbacks Zach Abey and Josh Jackson. Maryland’s injury issues are the mashed potatoes that, no matter how much you eat, there’s still more on your plate. Virginia’s best season since 2011 is the pumpkin pie with whipped cream after the Cavaliers have been stuck with mincemeat for the last few Novembers (which in the right hands is awesome, and in the wrong ones tastes like cigarette ash and shoelaces).


Navy (6-4, 4-3 AAC) at Houston (6-4, 4-3), noon (ESPN). The two previous West Division winners battle for second place in the division after recent stumbles (Mids began the year 5-0 while the Cougars started 4-1). Zach Abey leads the conference’s best ground game (360.5 yards per game) into the teeth of the second best run defense in the AAC. Houston’s played multiple quarterbacks this fall — sophomore D’Eriq King looked great against East Carolina and so-so against Tulane. The second worst-kept secret in the conference is that the Cougars allow a ton of yards through the air. The worst-kept secret is that Navy passes the ball just over nine times per game. Midshipmen fall, 34-23.

Virginia Tech (8-3, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia (6-5, 3-4), 8 p.m. (ESPN). It may have been mentioned once or twice this fall that the Cavaliers haven’t beaten the Hokies since 2003. That means that not only has no “fourth-year” student (they don’t have “seniors” at Virginia because one is always learning) at UVA seen the Cavs beat Virginia Tech, nobody they went to school with went to school with anyone who went to school with anyone who was a student when Al Groh’s team topped Frank Beamer’s bunch 35-21. That Hokie team ended the season with five losses in seven games … and this year’s edition has struggled in the final month of the season with two defeats and a near-disaster against Pitt. Cavaliers QB Kurt Benkert is coming off his highest rated game of the season, but the Hokies are the best in the ACC at getting off the field on third down. Kippy & Buffy wrap up their regular season of tailgating with a Chateau O’Brien 2012 Limited Harvest Tannat: “full bodied, dense & concentrated — with black fruit flavors & a silky smooth finish.” Cavaliers finish their first winning season in seven years with a silky-smooth 27-23 victory.


Maryland (4-7, 2-6 Big Ten) vs #10 Penn State (9-2, 6-2), 3:30 (Big Ten Network). The Terps wrap up a season that began with the bang of an upset win at Texas by looking to send their seniors out in style. Unlike the last three Novembers, they won’t be finishing the season against Rutgers — instead it’s longtime nemesis Penn State. Forget the 2014 win in Happy Valley — the Nittany Lions are 37-2-1 in the series and last lost in College Park when JFK was president. Can a Terrapins defense that ranks 12th in the Big Ten against the run and 13th against the pass contain the one-two punch of dual threat quarterback Trace McSorley and dual threat running back Saquon Barkley? Offensively the focus will be DJ Moore early and often (he has 72 of the team’s 154 receptions) … and that might not be enough to keep pace. Terrapins tumble, 45-17.

Last Week: 8-1.

Overall: 72-24.

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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