Nobody said this season was going to be even the tiniest bit easy.
Just when it appeared as though we were going to have the final two conferences added to the FBS mix, COVID-19 strikes again as a pair of local schools see their Saturday plans scrapped.
And while Virginia and Louisville have a corresponding bye next Saturday that’s not the case for Navy and Tulsa; the Mids will likely not be able to make up that game.
So the season like none other adds two more dance partners, with the Pac-12 and MAC taking their proper places on the college football landscape. For the record, I’ve always appreciated the Mid-American Conference: despite its kid-brother status to the Big Ten that league has produced a few upsets over the years as well as future Power Five Coaches, from Toledo’s Nick Saban to Bowling Green’s Urban Meyer.
Over the last 10 years, the conference has embraced its outlier status by holding certain games midweek; and while “MACtion” is great for those who have a Tuesday and Wednesday football fix it still has a little bit of the “kiddie table” feel about it.
Meanwhile the conference that actually changes its name to reflect membership numbers (I’m looking at you both, Big Ten & Big 12) but hasn’t produced a Playoff participant since 2016 kicks off play Saturday at noon when USC faces Arizona State; that’s noon eastern time and not noon local time, it’s actually going to be 9 a.m. (!) in Los Angeles/Tempe when the game starts. Nothing says kiddie table than kicking off during breakfast time.
As mentioned, Virginia (2-4) sees its game with Louisville get moved back one week. So far this fall the Cavaliers have had their schedule revamped (losing that Labor Day night game with Georgia), their game with VMI canceled, their showdown with Virginia Tech postponed and their duel with Duke moved from November to September (a good thing as the Blue Devils occupied the November 14 date that is now open).
Kippy & Buffy, instead of celebrating Cavaliers football, will commemorate Election Week (which might just turn out to become Election Month) with a bottle of 2016 Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon. “Our winesmiths rolled up their sleeves and fashioned this Cabernet to quench your thirst for blackberry, cinnamon spice, and American craftsmanship.” Truth be told, while you definitely taste the blackberry on the first sip, you don’t get the craftsmanship until you let the bottle breathe for a little bit. Smoked Gouda on wheat thins gives the socially distant tailgate a popular and electoral victory.
Virginia Tech (4-2) vs. No. 25 Liberty (6-0), noon (ACC Network)
The Hokies go outside the ACC for the first time this fall and they draw a Flames team that’s ranked for the first time in their three years as an FBS program. But while former Auburn quarterback Malik Willis (67.2% completions with 9 TD and 1 INT along with 7.0 yards per carry and 6 TD) has put up decent numbers in his first season in Lynchburg, Liberty had made its living in 2020 off of terrible teams: their six wins have come against foes posting a combined 4-27 mark. VT is better-tested with three of its six games being decided by a touchdown; they also boast a ground game unlike one Liberty has faced this fall with Khalil Herbert (803 yards on 8.4 yards per carry) leading the way.
Presto’s Pick: Hokies put out the Flames, 44-24.
Maryland (1-1) at Penn State (0-2), 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Which Terps team will we get, the one that was dominated at Northwestern or the one that started strong and finished with a fury against Minnesota (while getting outscored 31-0 in the second and third quarters)? The Nittany Lions are trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2001, as preseason top 10 hopes have been turned upside down thanks to a defense that’s allowing 37 points per game. To say this series has not been even over the years would be a major understatement: the Terps are 2-40-1 lifetime against the Nittany Lions and they’ve been outscored an average of 50-5 the last four years. Last fall Sean Clifford threw for 398 yards and three touchdowns on a cold night in College Park as the visitors posted its first shutout in the series since 1970.
Presto’s Pick: Terrapins tumble, 35-17.
No. 5 Georgia (4-1) vs No. 8 Florida (3-1), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
The world’s largest outdoor cocktail party dials it down a tiny bit during the season of social distancing, but delivers a top 10 matchup for the third straight year. The Bulldogs have won three in a row and six of nine in this series, but the Gators boast the better quarterback in Kyle Trask this fall (for the record, Stetson Bennett IV has the superior name but inferior numbers) and the East Division pendulum swings back from Athens to Gainesville (with apologies to my Volunteer friends who will have to wait their turn for a few more years).
Presto’s Pick: Gators get it done, 28-19.
No. 1 Clemson (7-0) at No. 4 Notre Dame (6-0), 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
How is this game NOT on NBC? The Fighting Irish picked a great year to rent in a conference, as the ACC is down and the Tigers are minus quarterback Trevor Lawrence due to COVID-19 concerns. The top ranked team in the nation is also minus defensive starters Tyler Davis and Mike Jones. ND has won 22 straight at home and has the necessary weapons with senior quarterback Ian Book and sophomore running back Kyren Williams; they’ve also allowed just 10.3 points per game this fall.
Presto’s Pick: Fighting Irish find a way, 20-18.
Last Week: 2-2