With Maryland sitting out two straight Saturdays due to eight players testing positive for COVID-19 last week, and 15 players plus seven staff members, including head coach Mike Locksley, testing positive this week, Terrapin fans have had a chance to check out the rest of the Big Ten.
Depending on how much other conference action they’ve watched, they likely don’t believe their eyes or TV sets. This season, like none other, the team emerging as Ohio State’s main contender for Big Ten East supremacy is not Penn State or Michigan, but … Indiana?
The red-hot Hoosiers are one win away from their best start since 1967, the last time they played in the Rose Bowl. That Pasadena drought is the second-longest among the 10 schools that originally comprised the Big Ten (Minnesota is the answer to that trivia question).
They are also one win away from securing a second straight five-win conference season; the Hoosiers’ previous five-win Big Ten campaign was 1993.
It has been relatively easy to let this year’s edition sneak up on you, especially with three-year starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey transferring to Northwestern. The opening week overtime win over No. 8 Penn State was viewed as a byproduct of an underachieving Nittany Lions team and a controversial call at the goal line.
Week two was obscured by the fact that the win was over Rutgers (even with coach Greg Schiano’s magic, the Scarlet Knights are still 1-3). But consecutive wins over Michigan and Michigan State has moved Indiana University from perennial pretender to unlikely contender.
Head coach Tom Allen is in his fourth full year at the helm, and to be honest, the Indiana job has been career quicksand over the years. You have to go back to go back to Alvin Nugent “Bo” McMillin (63-48-11, .561) from 1934 to ’47 to find a coach who left Bloomington with a winning record — 14 coaching hires ago.
But for the moment, the New Castle, Indiana, native is 22-20 with the school and even if the Hoosiers wind up like a bug on the windshield when they face No. 3 Ohio State, one feels that perhaps there’s more to look forward to in Bloomington than basketball season and the Little 500 (Breaking Away still works on many levels).
No. 9 Indiana (4-0) at No. 3 Ohio State (3-0), noon (FOX)
Upon further review, the Hoosiers’ four victories have come against teams that are a collective 3-13. But the Buckeyes’ three victims are a combined 2-9, and they allowed 27 points to Rutgers.
OSU does have quarterback Justin Fields, who has as many touchdown passes as he has incompletions so far this fall (11). It also has a running game that averages 209 yards per game that’s led by Master Teague III.
IU’s “legacy” player is running back Stevie Scott III, who paces the Hoosiers on the ground but averages just 3.6 yards per carry.
Presto’s Pick: Buckeyes in a blowout, 42-20
Virginia Tech (4-4, 4-3 ACC) at Pitt (4-4, 3-4), 4 p.m. (ACC Network)
In previous autumns, this was a Coastal Division clash. This year, they’ll have to settle for being a battle of .500 teams looking for late-season momentum. Can the Virginia Tech Hokies salvage their season?
They’ve dropped back-to-back winnable games at home, the defense is allowing over 30 points per game and over the last two weeks, they’ve allowed go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter of both of their losses.
The Panthers lead the ACC in total defense thanks to a pass rush that has a league-high 45 sacks. But they’ve also dropped a pair of one-possession games where they coughed up fourth-quarter scores.
And Pitt is also coming off an off-week, as their Nov. 14 game with Georgia Tech was postponed due to COVID-19 cases with both teams.
Presto’s Pick: Hokies are held in check, 26-17
Virginia (3-4) vs. Abilene Christian (1-4), 4 p.m. (ACC Network)
The Virginia Cavaliers have won consecutive games for the first time all season and step outside the ACC this week with a game against the FCS Wildcats.
Brennan Armstrong may have thrown for only 411 yards over the last two weeks, but the redshirt sophomore has accounted for seven of the team’s nine touchdowns in that span.
The Wildcats are playing their season finale, unless they pick up a game in December on short notice with a school looking to pad its schedule. (Nebraska, is that you raising your hand?) They have also turned the ball over nine times in five outings.
Speaking of outings, Kippy & Buffy, everybody’s favorite UVa tailgating tandem, traditionally enjoy a bottle of white when their Cavaliers clash with a non-conference foe — and the socially distant world of 2020 is no exception.
This week, they’re breaking out a Sauvignon Blanc to complement the crisp November air, specifically the 2018 Quivira Fig Tree.
“Immediately aromatic from the get-go with classic straw color and hints of green around the edges. Balanced and brisk, flavors of guava, passion fruit, lime zest, gooseberry, loads of tropical fruit, white grapefruit rind and subtle spice from the acacia barrels meld effortlessly.”
Even with an FCS foe, there’s still quite a bit of effort that’s needed to post a victory.
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up big, 42-15
No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1, 4-1 Big 12) at No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2, 4-2), 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
One game separates the top five teams in the Big 12, and the Oklahoma Sooners have played their way back into Championship Game contention with consecutive 62-point efforts behind quarterback Spencer Rattler (68% completion rate with 18 TD this fall).
Cowboys running back Chuba Hubbard ran for 104 yards and a touchdown last season against OU en route to leading the nation in rushing; the junior has been held to 103 yards on 31 carries over his last two games.
The Bedlam Rivalry has been one-sided as of late. OSU’s Mike Gundy may boast a memorable mullet, but his Cowboys have gone a forgettable 2-13 in this series since he took over in Stillwater.
Presto’s Pick: Sooners shine, 41-27
Last Week: 3-1