Presto’s College Football Picks: Right back where we started from

WASHINGTON — Welcome back to another exciting season of college football, where last year’s preseason and postseason No. 1 is this year’s top-ranked team.

Once again the Crimson Tide have a ton of talent and a schedule where they either have byes or play FCS foes (or Missouri, which is kind of semi-FCS nowadays) the week before their big games. Clemson is once again expected to wreak havoc in the ACC while Virginia and Virginia Tech benefit by playing in the softer Coastal Division. The Big Ten East will be loaded — and unfortunately that’s the highway on which Maryland tries to avoid becoming roadkill. Navy attempts to navigate a competitive AAC West with a new quarterback at the helm and the area FCS schools boast a few contenders (James Madison is ranked No. 2 while Richmond receives votes) but mostly pretenders where things have more than a chance to get rough early. Are we sure this is a new year?

Look closer at the AP Preseason Top 25 beyond No. 1 Alabama: Oklahoma (7th) and Texas (23rd) are in the exact same spots they were last August while Virginia Tech and Stanford are ranked one spot higher than in 2017. Ohio State and Clemson are top five teams again this season and seven of last year’s top ten find their way back. Twelve of last year’s top 15 are in the same neighborhood entering Labor Day weekend (instead of Michigan at #11 this year it’s Michigan State — forgive us).

Over the last decade we’ve dealt with plenty of change to the game, from schools jumping conferences to the BCS becoming the CFP. Instead of something seismic in 2018, it’s more like meet the new boss — same as the old boss. Who’s next?

Maryland vs. No. 23 Texas, noon (FOX)

Last year, the Terrapins went into Austin and upset the 23rd-ranked Longhorns behind quarterbacks Tyrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill. So there will be no sneaking up on Texas this year. While Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison are back to provide a 1-2 punch on the ground, there’s no more DJ Moore to stretch the field or move the chains in the passing game. Tom Herman’s team took a while to adapt to the new regime, but won four of six to finish last fall. Unlike last September, Sam Ehlinger is firmly entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 38-19

Richmond at Virginia, 6 p.m. (ACC Network)

Two years ago, the Spiders won at Scott Stadium by 17 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. But that team had Kyle Lauletta and that UVa team was still finding its footing under then-first year coach Bronco Mendenhall and transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert. This year, there’s a new QB in Bryce Perkins, but coach Mendenhall returns five starters on offense and eight more on defense that have grown up in his program. One program that never changes at Scott Stadium is Kippy & Buffy’s tailgate, and the popped-collar pair is already in midseason form. They kick off 2018 with a bottle of Moscato: Beni di Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti Bosc dla Rei 2013. On name value alone it impresses, but “with the palate profile packing D’Anjou pear and red apple nuances, the fizzy, fruit-forward themes run well-balanced from the semi-sweet start to fairly, full finish.” What a way to start, indeed.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come through, 31-14

Navy at Hawaii, 11 p.m. (CBS Sports Network and 1500 AM)

The Midshipmen are 1-2 all-time in Honolulu, with their victory coming against Cal in the 1996 Aloha Bowl. The Rainbow Warriors are coming off of a 3-9 season, but as one would expect, are a much better team at home over the last 10 years (.507 winning percentage at Aloha Stadium, .245 anywhere else). The synthetic turf will give Malcolm Perry a little extra zip as the junior runs the option against a rebuilding defense that coughed up 5.3 yards per carry in 2017.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen make it happen, 34-24

No. 20 Virginia Tech at No. 19 Florida State, Monday 8 p.m. (ESPN)

The Seminoles have a new head coach in Willie Taggart, but the same old talent and expectations. They’re also looking to prove that last season’s 7-6 finish was an aberration instead of a trend. Quarterback Deondre Francis going down for the year with an injury in the opener was a major reason for the subpar season. He’s back and has FSU’s usual array of offensive weapons at his disposal. The Hokies’ secondary is a primary concern after they lost one starter to academics, another to arrest and a projected fill-in to injury. Can Josh Jackson and the offense win a shootout?

Presto’s Pick: Hokies fall, 44-20

James Madison falls at NC State, Georgetown loses to Marist, Howard slips to Ohio, William & Mary beats Bucknell, Towson tops Morgan State.

Last Year: 79-27

Ed. Note: With legal sports gambling coming soon to a state near you, we’re including two more picks this year. Chris Cichon’s “The Big Chee’s” will pick a Top 25 game each week, while Noah Frank’s “Frankie’s Flyer” will pick an underdog of at least 7 points to cover and possibly spring an outright upset.

The Big Chee’s: Alabama (-24.5) vs. Louisville (in Orlando, Fla.)

Frankie’s Flyer: Hawaii (+10) vs. Navy

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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