Presto’s college football picks: As the Terrapins turn

WASHINGTON — The University of Maryland owned the week in a way many schools would rather not. After a summerlong investigation into the death of student-athlete Jordan McNair, the Board of Regents announced Tuesday that despite the fact that yes, there was dysfunction within the athletic department and football program, nobody would be held responsible for the death of the 19-year old.

The board recommended reinstatement for coach DJ Durkin as well as athletic director Damon Evans.

The response went over as well as one would expect, even with University President Wallace Loh announcing his retirement at the end of the academic year.

One day after the announcement that Loh was retiring, the president made a move of his own and fired Durkin.

There was no way Durkin could return to coach this team. Not after the death of a player. Not after the investigation into the program, especially not after he had been separated from this team (due to administrative leave) for almost three months and two thirds of the regular season. He couldn’t transition back to normalcy, and it will be years and at least one new head coaching regime before this program gets back on the track they may have been on or thought they were on when Jordan McNair died.

And one day after Durkin’s dismissal, board chair James T. Brady said that he was stepping down.

There will no doubt be more fallout, as Evans is on far from secure ground.

The hiring process for the next head coach will be filled with ridiculous expectations (Frank Reich is likely NOT leaving the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts to come to College Park), second-guessing and the customary misdirection that any coaching search at Maryland has been known for delivering. If it’s anything like previous regime changes, expect a few current players to transfer once the dust settles.

Somewhere in the midst of assigning responsibility and finding the right course of action, McNair’s 115 teammates have scraped their way to a 5-3 start, and they’re one victory shy of reaching bowl eligibility.

I’ve long thought that there are way too many bowls, with the mediocrity of a .500 season propped up with cupcake wins getting rewarded to the point where postseason play is an entitlement instead of an achievement. If the Terps get to six wins this month, they’ll be one of the exceptions.

Friday’s games

No. 23 Virginia (6-2, 4-1 ACC) vs. Pitt (4-4, 3-1), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)

Don’t look now, but the Cavaliers enter November atop the ACC Coastal Division.

While getting to the top of the standings to begin college football’s “Closing Month” is one thing, Virginia is the only original Coastal school that has yet to play in the ACC Championship Game.

The Panthers are somewhat offensively challenged this fall, with senior running back Qadree Ollison (795 yards and seven touchdowns rushing) the lone bright spot this fall.

He’s coming off a 149-yard performance against Duke. Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins is coming off a 217-yard passing, 112-yard rushing effort against North Carolina. He’s also been dynamite at moving the chains. The Cavaliers rank second in the ACC (47.7 percent) on third down.

Pitt’s defense? Second to last at getting off the field this season.

Cavaliers come the fore of the Coastal Division with a 30-14 victory.

Maryland (5-3, 3-2 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (5-3, 3-2), noon (ESPN2)

As if anyone is focused on the nuts and bolts of this matchup, we’ll do our darnedest to keep this game-related.

Both schools are in contention but are long shots in the East Division race. While the Terps boast the second-best running game in the conference (with a league-leading 6.3 yards per carry), the Spartans bring the stingiest run defense (2.7 yards per carry and 77.4 yards per game) to College Park.

They also bring a freshman quarterback named Rocky Lombardi who threw for 318 yards in his first career start (second-year starter Brian Lewerke was out with a shoulder injury).

They’ll need to pass effectively as the Spartans manage just 3.1 yards per carry this fall. If there’s one thing the Terps don’t do well defensively, it’s rush the passer (12 sacks rank 13th in the Big Ten). Win or lose, this is going to be one intriguing afternoon.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph 24-20.

Navy (2-6, 1-3 AAC) at Cincinnati (7-1, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

The midseason gauntlet continues for coach Ken Niumatalolo’s team as they face the No. 1 defense in the AAC.

The Bearcats are tops in the league against the run and are the stingiest on third down, while being one of four teams in a top-heavy East Division that could advance to the conference championship.

The bright spot for the Mids this fall has been ball security: They rank second in the AAC and are 13th nationally at +7 through eight games.

They’re also the least-penalized team in the league, while Cincinnati has drawn the most flags (an average of eight for 81.2 yards per game).

They may do the little things better than the Bearcats, but Cincy does the big things much better, and that will come up huge.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen continue to meander in a 35-21 loss.

Virginia Tech (4-3, 3-1 ACC) vs No. 24 Boston College (6-2, 3-1), 3:45 p.m. (ACC Network)

Could the Hokies actually miss a bowl this fall? The “easy” Coastal Division games against Duke and North Carolina are in their rearview mirror and a suddenly slippery schedule awaits, with their remaining foes a combined 12-5 in conference play.

Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has made the most out of an inexperienced unit, but in each defeat they’ve been exposed: 495 yards passing allowed against Old Dominion, three touchdowns of 30-plus yards in the Notre Dame game, and 465 yards on the ground given up to Georgia Tech.

This week they face a healthy AJ Dillon (134 yards per game at 5.8 per carry), who’s looking to atone for last year’s 10-carries-for-35-yards performance in Chesnut Hill.

Keeping quarterback Ryan Willis upright will be a key: BC leads the ACC with 28 sacks over eight games. Getting him possessions will be just as important — they had the ball 10 times in the loss to the Yellowjackets after, averaging 13.7 drives over their first six games this fall.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies hold on, 20-19.

Howard falls to Florida A&M; Richmond beats Villanova; James Madison beats New Hampshire; Towson tops Maine.

Last Week: 6-3
Overall: 49-25

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