Presto’s Picks: The September surge continues

For the second Friday of a three-week stretch we will have an area college football team playing in prime-time.

In the past I’ve written here that I’m not a fan of sucking up the oxygen that should be reserved for high school football and those communities (from the major metropolitan schools like DeMatha to fictional ones like Dillon), but you can’t turn back progress especially where $$$ are in play.

When my alma mater Syracuse left the Big East after 30-plus years of membership one of the consolations was “at least we won’t be playing on Fridays anymore,” only to see the ACC start scheduling games on that night the year after the Orange joined the league.

Who gets to play on Friday night these days? Not the SEC nor the Big 12 unless you are Kansas. Being shoved to Friday night is ESPN, FOX and/or your conference’s way of ironically saying you’re not necessarily ready for prime time.

Not including the pandemic 2020 season, four Big Ten schools have hosted Friday night conference games (one does not include the Labor Day or Thanksgiving holiday weekends): Northwestern, Minnesota, Maryland, and Illinois (three times).


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Since 2017 Virginia has played on an ACC-high five Fridays (shared by a certain alma mater of the author). And while it’s nice to get the non-powers some extra exposure, Friday night still smacks of the kiddie table for holiday gatherings (except for — amusingly rather than ironically — Thanksgiving Friday)

Friday Night

Virginia (2-1, 0-1 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (3-0, 1-0), 7 p.m., ESPN2

Exactly what should we make of this Cavaliers team? They routed an FCS school as well as perhaps the worst team in the Big Ten while getting blown out by the preseason Coastal Division favorite.

And after allowing 59 points (second-most in the Bronco Mendenhall era) they have one fewer day to prepare for a Demon Deacons offense that is averaging 39 points per game and is looking for its fourth 4-0 start in six years.

Kippy & Buffy also have a tight turnaround after last Saturday night’s tailgate. While Buffy isn’t a fan of the Friday night games because she feels that night belongs to the high schools (she’s a big fan of “Friday Night Lights”: the book, movie, and TV show), Kippy’s not a fan because it often means he’ll be dragged into an afternoon of apple picking.

They are huge fans of Orrin Swift and The Prisoner and this week they’re going to enjoy a bottle of their 2019 Saldo Zinfandel: “The entry is rich, full, and scintillating,” per the web site tasting notes.

“The palate is mouthwatering and smooth with a hint of chocolate. The finish is voluptuous with soft, velvety tannins.” Even with the corresponding margarita pizza, after allowing 35 points in the second half to UNC do we want another soft finish?

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up short, 37-31.

Saturday

Virginia Tech (2-1) vs. Richmond (2-1), noon, ACC Network

Both teams are trying to avoid a hangover from week three, as the Hokies lost at West Virginia despite having the ball inside the Mountaineers 10 with under a minute left and the Spiders coughed up a 14-point fourth quarter lead at Villanova.

Richmond quarterback Joe Mancuso provides a threat on the ground (5.6 yards per carry) just like the Hokies Braxton Burmeister (who would lead VT in rushing if sack yards weren’t counted). Tech has won eight straight against FCS schools but dropped their last meeting to Richmond in 1984.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies regain their footing, 34-14.

Maryland (3-0) vs. Kent State (1-2), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network

The Terps’ final nonconference foe is another tough read: the Golden Flashes have sandwiched two blowout losses to top ten teams around a rout of an FCS school.

Coach Mike Locksley’s team has had to rally in the fourth quarter of both of their one-possession wins over FBS teams, but after three weeks lead the Big Ten in offensive passing efficiency and red zone offense while ranking second in sacks and defensive passing efficiency.

They’ll be tested on the ground by the tailback duo of Marquez Cooper (6.6 yards per carry and 66 per game) and Xavier Williams (5.5 and 55). Kent State is 0-18 all-time against Big Ten schools, with their 2012 win at Rutgers not counting because the Scarlet Knights were still in the Big East at the time.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins Triumph, 44-14.

Navy (0-2) at Houston (2-1), 7 p.m., ESPNU

The Midshipmen are coming off an early bye-week, and boy did they need it. Not only did they get outscored 72-10 in their first two games of the season but Academy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuck (and not Head Coach Ken Niumatololo) also fired Offensive Coordinator Irvin Jasper.

While the longtime assistant was reinstated (he’ll coach the quarterbacks but not call plays), something about the “chain of command” comes to mind. The Mids are 16-15 over the last three years in AAC play after going 14-3 their first two seasons in the league.

The Cougars won last year’s game in Annapolis by 16 behind the sharp passing of Clayton Tune: the junior is completing over 70% of his passes this fall but is averaging under 10 yards per completion.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen come up short, 31-10.

Georgetown loses at Columbia, Howard falls to Robert Morris, William & Mary wilts at Elon, Towson tumbles at San Diego State.

Last Week: 9-1. The September surge continues.

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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