Former Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer once said that a team improves its greatest between games one and two, and that certainly makes sense from a mathematical standpoint.
The sample size we see with the second game is 50% of the product, and teams have the chance to either build on a solid effort in Week 1 or bounce back from a subpar showing.
With September being “show me month” and littered with nonconference games, a team needs to find its footing before the conference gauntlet gets underway in earnest.
How does a team handle adversity? And just as important, how does it handle initial success?
While Maryland and Virginia Tech try to build off solid wins against Power Five Conference foes, Navy looks to bounce back from last Saturday’s nightmare loss to Marshall.
Virginia has a different kind of wake-up call entirely, with an 11 a.m. kickoff that puts a different kind of pressure on student athletes, students and fans in attendance.
Virginia (1-0) vs. Illinois (1-1), 11 a.m., ACC Network.
The Cavaliers — after their rout of William & Mary — play the Fighting Illini, a Big Ten school that began the Bret Bielema era during “Week Zero” with a win over moribund Nebraska before never leading in a loss at home to Texas San Antonio.
It should also be added that the Illini didn’t beat the Cornhuskers as much as the once-vaunted Big 12 school that has lost its way beat themselves. Brennan Armstrong didn’t just throw two touchdown passes while running for two more scores in the opener as much as he didn’t lose a fumble or interception.
He’s looking to deal against a defense that coughed up 497 yards to UTSA last weekend.
Kippy & Buffy are dealing with an early kickoff and a morning tailgate. They’re going to enjoy smoked Gouda on multigrain crackers while enjoying a bottle of Linden Vineyards 2018 Village Chardonnay.
The tasting notes read: “This is a slowly revealing wine that defines restraint and harmony. Its aromas have a quiet floral perfume. The balance and seamlessness on the palate are close to ethereal.”
Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers play seamlessly on both sides of the ball in a 34-17 win.
Virginia Tech (1-0) vs. Middle Tennessee (1-0), 2 p.m., ACC Network.
Beware the September stumble: Over the years the Hokies have had issues in the first month of the season, and while some losses under head coach Justin Fuente are understandable (against No. 17 Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2016 and against No. 2 Clemson in 2017) others are head-scratching (at Old Dominion in 2018).
The Blue Raiders scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in their 50-15 rout of Monmouth, a school that resides in New Jersey yet competes in the Big South (and you thought “flexible geography” was just a Power Five thing).
While Braxton Burmeister may still need to make strides this fall, the defense (especially the line) looks legit in Blacksburg.
Presto’s Pick: Hokies blast the Blue Raiders, 34-16.
Navy (0-1) vs. Air Force (1-0), 3:30 p.m., CBS.
The Midshipmen and Falcons play on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and while they’ll be thinking about that day, the players will also be thinking about their future when they will be teammates defending this nation as Navy, Marine and Air Force officers.
They’ll also be playing for the present — as in the first leg of the 2021 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy (Army won it last year, Navy took it in 2019, and Air Force last captured the trophy in 2016).
The Falcons beat Lafayette last Saturday and routed the Mids 40-7 in 2020 on a day where quarterback Haaziq Daniels rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown.
The Navy offense may have gained 398 yards against Marshall in their opener, but once past midfield everything wrong happened from missed field goal attempts to interceptions at the goal line.
Home field has held in this series, with Falcons last winning in Annapolis 10 years ago (and that came in overtime).
Presto’s Pick: Mids come up short, 24-10.
Maryland (1-0) vs. Howard (0-1), 7:30 p.m., Big Ten Network.
The last time these two teams played the Terrapins hung 79 on the scoreboard Labor Day weekend 2019. Since that afternoon the Terps, under coach Mike Locksley, have built a foundation and appear poised to at least compete — if not contend — in the Big Ten East this fall while the Bison went through a team mutiny and a coaching change.
Coach Larry Scott’s second season with the MEAC school began with a 38-14 loss at Richmond where the offense converted just 1-11 third down attempts and the defense surrendered two touchdowns longer than 40 yards.
Maryland’s offense generated a pair of 60+ touchdowns in their victory over West Virginia, while their defense and special teams notched four take-aways. The Terps are 14-0 against FCS foes since 2002, and there’s no reason to think the streak won’t continue.
Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 48-13.
Richmond over Lehigh, James Madison tops Maine, William & Mary beats Lafayette, Towson tumbles to New Hampshire, Morgan State tumbles to Tulane.