Thanksgiving weekend is usually the final week of the regular season, with division titles on the line and traditional rivalries taking center stage. However, the coronavirus pandemic’s scrambling of the season has moved games like Virginia-Virginia Tech and Ohio State-Michigan into December.
On the bright side, at least Maryland’s continuing search for a true rival is obscured. On simple geography plus timing of Big Ten entry, shouldn’t it be Rutgers from here on out?
While one notable blood feud is still on tap (rumor has it cockroaches, Keith Richards & Alabama-Auburn hatred are the only three things that will survive the end of the world), instead we get a smattering of leftovers plus one major turkey.
Michigan is 2-3 only because it beat Rutgers in triple overtime last Saturday, while Penn State is 0-5 for the first time in school history.
Each is dealing with an unsettled quarterback situation, while both fan bases are dealing with head coaches who have succeeded in their tenures but for the most part haven’t been able to beat Ohio State (Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin are a combined 1-11 against the Buckeyes).
The fall of 2020 doesn’t have either school vying with Ohio State for first place in the East, but instead trying to stay ahead of Rutgers in the division cellar. Pass the potatoes.
Maryland (2-1) at No. 12 Indiana (4-1), noon (ESPN2)
The Terps after two weeks off visit the Big Ten’s secondary Cinderella (behind 5-0 Northwestern) that came within a touchdown of topping mighty Ohio State.
While one will be concerned with how the Terps will contain Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (leads the Big Ten with 312 passing yards per game), one will also wonder how the offensive line will handle the top pass rush in the conference (IU leads has a Big Ten-high 17 sacks).
But one is also curious how the team that was beginning to find itself handles being idle for two weeks.
Presto’s Pick: Terps tumble, 34-20
No. 22 Auburn (5-2) at No. 1 Alabama (7-0), 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
The SEC’s signature rivalry (sorry Ole Miss-Mississippi State, Georgia-Florida, Tennessee & LSU) resumes this week with the Tigers visiting the Crimson Tide. In a game that needs no reason to rev up, Bama has multiple motivations this week.
First, they’re still stung about last year’s loss at Jordan-Hare Stadium that kept the school out of the College Football Playoff for the first time ever.
The team isn’t just playing the foes on the field, but against unbeatens Notre Dame and Ohio State in the eyes of the pollsters and Playoff Committee. And lastly, the team is playing for Head Coach Nick Saban, who will be sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19.
Presto’s Pick: Bama in a blowout, 38-17
Navy (3-4, 3-2 AAC) vs. Memphis (5-2, 3-2), 7 p.m. (CBSSN)
If I was concerned about how Maryland would respond to being idle for two weeks, what does one think about the Midshipmen coming back from a three-week hiatus? And keep in mind that there were issues (88 points allowed in losses to SMU and Houston) before the season was paused.
This week’s task for the defense that allows more yards on the ground than any other in the AAC: Tigers quarterback Brady White, who threw three touchdown passes in a win against the Mids last year and is averaging over 300 yards passing this fall.
Navy gets things done when it can run effectively and will meet a Memphis defense that is second-best in the American at stopping the run.
Presto’s Pick: Mids fall, 31-14
Virginia (4-4, 3-4 ACC) at Florida State (2-6, 1-6), 8 p.m. (ACCN)
The Cavaliers have won three straight thanks in part to keeping quarterback Brennan Armstrong upright. While UVA has allowed a conference-low 11 sacks, the Seminoles defense has managed just 11 sacks, worst in the league.
FSU is just as bad at protecting its passer (ACC-high 35 sacks allowed), as well as offensive and defensive passing efficiency (last in both categories). Virginia likely won’t need a last-second interception return for a touchdown to make things happen here.
Kippy & Buffy have plenty to be thankful for this year, and that includes the weekly socially-distant tailgates. Thanksgiving week means leftovers, and to pair best with turkey sandwiches they’re breaking out a bottle of 2017 L’Ecole N° 41 Merlot.
This Washington state wine is “layered with complex aromas of black cherry, rose petal, and plum, this full bodied, balanced Merlot shows layers of baking spices and cocoa with a seamless finish carried by fine-grained tannins.”
Kippy & Buffy are hoping there will also be some baked goods leftovers as Aunt Billie’s Mincemeat Pie recipe is still used annually.
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come through, 36-18
Last Week: 4-0