After a humbling week, Dave Preston is back, cautiously dipping his toe back in the water for this weekend's college football slate.
WASHINGTON — As a kid, there was a stretch when I wanted to run for president. It kind of came with the territory, growing up in New Hampshire and watching the nation’s first primary up close and personal.
Last weekend, I learned what it was like to run for president — as Walter Mondale.
Presto’s Picks went 1-8 as I felt like George Costanza in that “I should do the opposite” episode of “Seinfeld.” The Navy pick saved me from a complete shutout, and in retrospect a winless week would have been an achievement to admire: perfection in reverse.
In Division I FBS there are no winless teams, but there are nine one-win schools whose brotherhood I joined last weekend. With any luck, listing this rogue’s gallery will serve as a cleanse before this week’s breakdowns:
UConn (1-8, 0-5 AAC) — The Huskies’ only win was a game where they allowed 49 points to FCS Rhode Island, and they cough up an FBS-high 627 yards per game.
North Carolina (1-7, 1-5 ACC) — A three-point win over Pitt is the only non-blemish for a Tar Heel team that’s 123rd in turnover margin.
Rutgers (1-8, 0-6 Big Ten) — What happened to the team that opened with a 35-7 thumping of Texas State? The Scarlet Knights rank 130th in passing efficiency and their lowlight came at Maryland, where they tossed five interceptions to two completions.
San Jose State (1-8, 1-4 MWC) — A 50-37 win over UNLV keeps the Spartans out of last place in their division. Their Achilles heel is running the ball (130th, dead last in the nation).
Bowling Green (1-8, 0-5 MAC) and Central Michigan (1-9, 0-6) — These squads meet Saturday in Mount Pleasant. Movable object or stoppable force? The Falcons rank 129th in points allowed while the Chippewas are 129th in total offense.
Conference USA’s Three Stooges — Slapstick at the bottom of the standings has UTEP (1-8, 1-4) getting their only win of the year against Rice (1-9, 0-6). The Owls have a sacrificial lamb game at LSU later this month while the Miners play Western Kentucky (1-8, 0-5) the same day. Pick your poison.
Maryland (5-4, 3-3 Big Ten) at Indiana (4-5, 1-5), noon (Big Ten Network)
Interim coach Matt Canada faces his alma mater while his team faces its last best chance to secure bowl eligibility — Maryland’s next two foes are No. 8 Ohio State and No. 21 Penn State. The Hoosiers are coming off consecutive one-possession losses to Penn State and Minnesota and have had two weeks to prepare for a Terps offense that has had issues passing the ball (last in the Big Ten) while coming off a season-low 26 yards rushing.
IU also has sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who’s completing 68 percent of his passes this fall and threw for three scores last year in a loss to the Terps. Everything tells me that Maryland comes back from Bloomington empty. After last week, everything tells me to go opposite what everything tells me.
Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 26-21
Navy (2-7, 1-4 AAC) at #11 UCF (8-0, 5-0), noon (ESPN2)
The gauntlet ends for the Midshipmen, as they meet a school that has won 21 straight games. One of the reasons why the Knights are unbeaten is they don’t beat themselves: Their +14 turnover margin ranks second nationally. Causes for confidence include the fact that UCF did allow 226 yards on the ground to Temple last week, and that the Mids can’t be as bad as they were against Cincinnati.
Sadly for Navy, the defense has to deal with McKenzie Milton, who has thrown for 300+ yards four times this fall. The junior is also a threat on the ground (seven rushing touchdowns). This trip to Orlando is more “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” and less “Carousel of Progress.”
Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen sink, 44-16
Virginia (6-3) vs. Liberty (4-4), 3 p.m. (ACC Network)
The Cavaliers go outside the ACC for the final time this fall, hosting an independent Flames team that has allowed more than 40 points four times in their last five games. Look for the offense to sort itself out, or at least roll up some yards.
The final home game at Scott Stadium has Kippy and Buffy breaking out white wine for a nonconference foe one final time, and this week it’s a bottle of 2017 Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc: “Tightly structured, with strong, vigorous passion fruit and lime flavors, woven with steely acidity, and obvious potential.”
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers live up to their obvious potential in a 45-20 win
Virginia Tech (4-4, 3-2 ACC) at Pittsburgh (5-4, 4-1), 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Does anyone want to win the Coastal Division? Pitt is the third team to have the lead in the last three weeks, a stretch that began when the Hokies were steamrolled on national TV five days before Halloween. They gave up 465 yards rushing that night, and surrendered 219 yards on the ground last weekend in a loss to Boston College. The one thing Pitt does well offensively is run the ball, whether it’s Darrin Hall (229 yards against Virginia last week) or Qadree Ollison (192 yards against Duke Oct. 27).
The Panthers may be 5-4, but their losses have come to unbeatens Notre Dame and UCF as well as No. 21 Penn State. Yes, there’s also that defeat at North Carolina one can’t explain, but the Tar Heels just seem to have their number — just like Pitt seems to always play well against the Hokies (four one-possession games in the last four years).
Presto’s Pick: Hokies slip under .500 with a 19-17 loss
Howard handles Norfolk State, Georgetown beats Bucknell, Richmond slips to Maine, William & Mary loses to Villanova, James Madison beats Rhode Island, Towson tumbles to Elon.
Last Week: 1-8. It’s Morning in Picksland? More appropriately, quicksand.
Ed. Note: With legal sports gambling coming soon to a state near you, we’re including Noah Frank’s “Frankie’s Flyer” — he’ll pick an underdog of at least seven points to cover and possibly spring an outright upset.
Bowling Green (+7) at Central Michigan
Season: 4-7 vs. spread, 4-7 outright
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