College football season usually begins with a bang on Labor Day weekend, followed by some notable inter-conference showdowns sprinkled in the schedule over the next few weekends before conference play begins in earnest.
What we’ve seen in 2020 is a slow boil, starting with the FCS matchup of Austin Peay and Central Arkansas in “week zero” before the AAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt got their seasons underway last week.
Now it’s the ACC’s and Big 12’s turn, followed in a few weeks by the SEC.
Be patient; we’ll have the full FBS Power Five menu up and rolling shortly — minus the Big Ten and Pac 12. And until we get all of the locals (Navy, Virginia and Virginia Tech) playing, we’ll just have to make due with what’s on TV — unless we’re looking to burn weekends apple picking and antiquing.
Virginia was supposed to play VMI this weekend, and even though the game against the Keydets was canceled, Kippy & Buffy have to do something with the wine commandeered for their social distancing tailgate.
Tradition calls for red before ACC games and white to precede nonconference affairs; naturally Kippy & Buffy enjoy champagne/sparkling wine during the bye week and during the rare season like 2019, where there are two idle Saturdays they’ll sub in an apple wine or a port.
They kick off a new decade with Barboursville Vermentino Reserve 2017: “vivid citrusy aromatics with a deep, dry palate of sustained structure, excellent body, lingering minerality and finesse of finish.”
After the 2020 that everyone has dealt with thus far, the word “finish” is rather welcome.
Syracuse at North Carolina, noon (ACC Network)
These two schools played the last completed game at last March’s ACC men’s basketball tournament — and although the Orange and Tar Heels are hoops-first in the 21st century, each has given us generational football players in Jim Brown and Lawrence Taylor.
The Tar Heels — in year two under Mack Brown’s second tenure at the school — return 17 starters, including former freshman phenom quarterback Sam Howell (38 touchdown passes in 2019).
The Orange took a step back after their first 10-win season in 17 years due to a defense that allowed 63 points to Maryland, 58 to Boston College and 56 to Louisville, plus have four starters back from that unit.
Presto’s Pick: Tar Heels Triumph, 45-20.
Duke at Notre Dame, 2:30 p.m. (NBC)
Here’s a way to get into the weekend; not many people are lukewarm about either school. While the Fighting Irish have a legitimate shot at winning the ACC in their year renting a room, the Blue Devils haven’t had a winning conference record since 2014.
Notre Dame is led by senior quarterback Ian Book, who threw for 3,034 yards and 34 touchdowns in 2019, but lost his top three targets to graduation.
David Cutcliffe has developed quality quarterbacks since arriving in Durham, from Daniel Jones to Sean Renfree. While he slow-cooked those two into NFL draftees, he’s going to have to microwave the development of graduate transfer Chase Brice (Clemson).
He’s an upgrade over last year’s starter Quentin Harris, but Brice won’t be able to beat the Fighting Irish by himself.
Presto’s Pick: Notre Dame dominates, 38-17.
Clemson at Wake Forest, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
The preseason number one team faces a school that lost their leading passer, rusher and receiver from 2019.
It’s also a tale of two coaches: while Dabo Swinney has turned Clemson from an underachieving power into a perennial national title contender, Dave Clawson has led the Demon Deacons to bowl appearances in the last four years.
And he doesn’t have the benefit of a slide at the football facility. Unfortunately, he also doesn’t have Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (consecutive seasons with 30 touchdown passes) playing quarterback in Winston-Salem, nor does he have running back Travis Etienne (7.8 yards per carry with 19 touchdowns in 2019).
Presto’s Pick: Tigers tear ‘em up, 45-10.
Coastal Carolina at Kansas, 10 p.m. (FS1)
Are you serious? If you are looking forward to watching the Chanticleers and the Jayhawks or gamble on this game and didn’t attend either school you need to get a grip.
Les Miles is in his second year of a major rebuild (the Jayhawks are 9-51 over the last five years and have just six conference wins over the last decade).
The Chanticleers (OK, I really like saying that name) are in their fourth season at the FBS level and second year under Coach Jamey Chadwell.
They also return 14 starters (including their top two rushers and best three receivers) and beat Kansas on the road last year.
Presto’s Pick: Jayhawks keep us up late, 31-20.
Last Week: 3-1.