Presto’s Picks: Navy, Virginia & Virginia Tech hit the road — will it hit back?

We’ll have to wait until Oct. 24 for all of the local FBS schools to play on the same Saturday, but this week we get three of the four in action for the first time this fall.

Navy, Virginia, and Virginia Tech are all away from home Saturday, but we should probably disregard each school’s recent road performance (over the last three years, Virginia Tech is 8-7, Navy is 5-12, and Virginia is 3-11). While the lack of crowds at stadiums may have taken a bit of the zip out of college football this fall, road teams are enjoying their most success (32 wins in 79 games — a .405 win percentage) since 2005.

While both Commonwealth schools won their openers at home, we’ve seen the Mids collapse in Annapolis and come together in New Orleans. A rebuilding Georgia Tech went into Tallahassee and left with a victory for the second time ever. And we’ve seen an Oklahoma team that had previously won 29 of 31 games in Norman stumble at home against Kansas State. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the road to success may be assisted by empty or near-empty stadiums.

Virginia Tech (1-0) at Duke (0-3), 4 p.m. (ACC Network)

Head coach Justin Fuente compared putting practices and game plans together in this pandemic time like “solving a Rubik’s Cube,” although we feel that beating N.C. State minus starting quarterback Hendon Hooker, plus 22 other players and defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton is more like playing “Jenga.” As in, one small mistake sends the whole game toppling and collapsing into itself. If there’s one team one wouldn’t mind playing while shuffling its two-deep lineup like a deck of cards, it would be Duke; the Blue Devils are allowing over 30 points per game and quarterback Chase Brice has become a turnover machine (three of his six interceptions this year were in the second half of last week’s loss at Virginia).

Presto’s Pick: Hokies handle things, 31-17.

Navy (1-1) at Air Force, 6 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)

There are those who will trumpet Army-Navy, and rightfully so. But having seen this matchup in person last year, I’m proud to say I’ve always been a sucker for the Mids and Falcons. This has traditionally been an October showdown with early-season expectations raised, met or suddenly squashed. Only this year, things enter the phantom zone: Air Force has yet to play a game and their roster/depth chart is not exactly firm at this time. Navy had a week off to prepare for the option offense and get more into game mode, and the unit that played the second half against Tulane looked a lot more like what we’re used to seeing from head coach Ken Niumatalolo than the previous three halves of the season. While they haven’t won in Colorado Springs since 2012, this is hardly a usual season.

Presto’s Pick: Mids make it happen, 30-20.

No. 4 Georgia (1-0) vs. No. 7 Auburn (1-0), 7:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Each school took a while to get going last weekend, with the Bulldogs trailing Arkansas 7-5 at the half and the Tigers leading Kentucky 8-7 at intermission. Georgia has owned this annual cross-division series lately, winning 12 of the last 15 meetings while Auburn hasn’t won in Athens since 2005. But they’ve got Bo Nix, who’s coming off a three-touchdown second half against the Wildcats, and the Georgia quarterback situation is less than settled. Auburn came up short last year after three key first-half drives ended in a missed field goal, a failed 4th-and-1, and a lost fumble on the Bulldogs’ side of the 50. Expect Bo Nix and company to learn from last year’s mistakes.

Presto’s Pick: Tigers triumph, 24-20.

Virginia (1-0) at No. 1 Clemson (2-0), 8 p.m. (ACC Network)

Hold on — how is this rematch of last year’s conference title game not on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 or even the OCHO?

Oh yeah, that game ended in a 62-17 rout where the Tigers scored the first four times they touched the ball (their fifth first-half possession was a one play, clock-killing kneel down). Trevor Lawrence riddled the Cavalier secondary for 302 yards and four touchdowns passing last December; this September, he completed over 80% of his passes. Did we mention that Clemson is rested and doubly prepared after having last weekend off?

The Cavaliers emerged from their win over Duke with plenty of positives, from freshman wide receiver Lavel Davis’ dynamic debut to the defense turning over the Blue Devils four times in the second half. Now they have to play the top-ranked Tigers who have two weeks to prepare. Gulp.

Kippy & Buffy know full well one does not gulp wine, even in the tailgate setting. And if their school is headed to college football’s “Death Valley,” they’re going to break open a bottle of Man O’ War “Death Valley” 2014 Malbec from New Zealand. “The nose is full and evenly packed with aromas of ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit, along with a soft and harmonious amalgam of earth, spices and cedar,” according to Raymond Chan Wine Reviews. “Full-bodied, the palate has rich and sweetly ripe flavors of blackberries, boysenberries and plums, unfolding licorice and spice notes.” One feels the notes one hears from the field will be more sour than sweet.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers get crushed, 44-14.

Last Week: 3-1.

Overall: 11-5.

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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