Presto’s college football picks: September statements

September 6, 2019

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Many out there, Maryland Head Coach Mike Locksley among them, say a college football team improves the most between Weeks 1 and 2.

This isn’t just a throwaway statement; with no preseason exhibition games to gage one’s talent against other foes, Week 1 is often a time of surprise discovery and rude awakening. How a team bounces back from those awakenings and maximizes its discoveries goes a long way toward how successful that team will eventually be. Think of the season as a paragraph, and Week 1 as the first sentence. That said, there are statements to be made in September, especially this Saturday.

Two schools with an early-season opportunity to make a major statement reside in the Lone Star State. Texas always has Texas-sized expectations and the last two Septembers the Longhorn balloon was popped in Week 1 by Maryland. But 2018 saw UT finish in the Top 25 for the first time since (gulp) 2012. Saturday night under the lights, head coach Tom Herman can make a major statement as the Longhorns host No. 6 LSU.

The ‘Horns’ former longtime conference rival, Texas A&M, also ended a drought last fall when former Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher led the Aggies to a Top 25 finish. While guiding the Seminoles, Fisher went 4-4 against Clemson, but won just once in Death Valley. This week, A&M visits the top-ranked and defending National Champion Tigers. The money the school paid Fisher to leave the Sunshine State was for Saturday statement games like this one.

Friday

William & Mary (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

The Cavaliers opened the season of possibilities by beating defending division champ Pitt on the road, thanks to a strong second half in which they outscored the Panthers 17-0 and — just as importantly — matched Pitt’s physical play. Enter William & Mary, helmed by former UVa coach Mike London. The Tribe runs an option-based offense, exactly the kind that’s tough to prepare for on a short week. They’re also coming off a win over Lafayette in which quarterback Hollis Mathis ran for 127 yards and a touchdown, but split snaps with Kilton Anderson. Shades of London’s carousel of quarterbacks in Charlottesville … we know how that worked out.

Kippy and Buffy are working their way through their tailgating schedule for 2019, and they usually open against a nonconference foe with Conundrum White. But in the autumn of possibilities they’re going outside the box. Metaphorically of course — they’d NEVER have wine from a box. For a matchup of two Commonwealth schools, Montifalco Vineyards 2018 Blanc rings true. A blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Seyval Blanc grapes provides “bright citrus, tropical notes and crisp finish.”

Presto’s Pick: The bright season continues as the Cavaliers come through, 34-16.

Saturday

Maryland (1-0) vs. No. 21 Syracuse (1-0), noon (ESPN)

How do you top a week where you post more points than your opponent’s total yards? By taking on a ranked opponent. The Terps haven’t beaten a ranked foe in College Park since NC State in 2010. The Orange opened their season with a 24-0 shutout of Liberty, a game known best for Flames coach Hugh Freeze calling plays from a hospital bed set up in a stadium suite (you cannot make this up). SU brings a pass rush that notched eight sacks last week, but the Terps were able to counter Howard’s pressure with downfield strikes in the opener. Syracuse also boasts a starting quarterback in Tommy DeVito who, depending on your interests, will have you humming Four Seasons tunes from “Jersey Boys” or re-enacting Joe Pesci scenes from “Goodfellas.” You think that’s funny? Funny how?

Presto’s Pick: Terps are unable to pull off a Lufthansa Heist, slipping 27-21.

Virginia Tech (0-1) vs. Old Dominion (1-0), noon (ESPNU)

How do you wash away the stain of a season-opening loss where you turned the ball over five times and coughed up 35 points? By facing the team that began your current 4-8 tailspin. Remember the Monarchs? They’re the team that hung 49 points on the Hokies last fall and turned what was supposed to be an easy cross-state trip into a nightmare that would last for the rest of the season. The good news is ODU quarterback Blake LaRussa (495 yards and 4 TD passes against the Hokies) left the program last winter to enter the seminary and full-time ministry. The Monarchs also lost leading rusher Jeremy Cox (130 yards and 2 TD rushing against Va. Tech) to the NFL. It’s market correction week in Blacksburg.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle the Monarchs, 37-14.

Howard falls at Youngstown State, Georgetown beats Marist, Richmond loses at Boston College, James Madison beats St. Francis (PA), Towson tops North Carolina Central, Catholic slips to Kenyon.

Last Week: 6-2.

Ed. Note: With legal sports gambling coming to D.C. this fall, 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: Rutgers (+19.5) at No. 20 Iowa

Last Week: Loss (0-1)

Frankie’s Flyer: Coastal Carolina (+7) at Kansas

Last Week: Loss, no cover (0-1, 0-1)

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