Presto’s Picks: Who’s crashing the college football party?

Nobody likes a party-crasher.

Gatherings, no matter how casual, are usually about order. You’re usually invited (sometimes in cursive lettering) and if you aren’t, then there are all sorts of odd looks as you arrive. There may be a confrontation and you may get shown the door — or you might wind up getting to stay.

But the crasher always feels on guard, because no matter how long they’ve been in the room, they know there’s always a chance they’ll be exposed.

College football is like that party, with many of the usual suspects like last year’s playoff teams Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Clemson in the Top 25 at the end of September. Blue bloods like Penn State, Oklahoma and Michigan are all off to 4-0 starts while new-money schools like Oregon and Baylor are back on the national stage as well.

But interspersed with the usual suspects are potential party-crashers, like No. 7 Cincinnati from the American Athletic Conference (of America). The Bearcats will learn if their invitation is valid Saturday when they visit No. 9 Notre Dame. Arkansas is good for the first time in 10 years, although it seems like the Razorbacks haven’t been relevant since they were in the Southwest Conference. Saturday, we’ll find out if they’re dressed properly when they visit No. 2 Georgia.



Other Power Five pretenders Boston College and Kentucky (both unbeaten and both unranked) play credible foes like No. 25 Clemson and No. 10 Florida this week. Maryland is 4-0 for the first time in five years, but learn if they can stay at the party for another week after this Friday when they host No. 5 Iowa. Because even if they’re allowed to stay around, Ohio State is ready to examine their invitation next Saturday.

Thursday:

Virginia (2-2, 0-2 ACC) at Miami (2-2), 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. Due to last year’s COVID-19 scramble, this will be the third year the Cavaliers will play in Coral Gables. Both teams are somewhat scrambled after one month, with the Hurricanes getting roasted twice on national television after being overmatched against No. 1 Alabama and playing sloppy at home against Michigan State. U.Va. is dealing with a disappointing defense that has allowed 96 points in two league games, ranking last in the ACC against the run and overall, as well as defensive passing efficiency. Which quarterback they’ll have to defend remains up in the air as D’Eriq King is questionable with the shoulder injury that caused him to miss last Saturday’s win over Central Connecticut. King is also less than nine months removed from tearing his ACL. The Cavaliers may lead the conference in passing yardage, but their running game ranks last in the league — not exactly the balance Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall is looking for.

Kippy & Buffy know the season is at a crossroads, and they’re going to double down at their tailgate this week with a bottle of Chateau O’Brien 2013 Vintner’s Reserve. Just like they believe in a balanced offense on the field, a balanced red will be in their glasses: 34% Tannat, 33% Petit Verdot and 33% Malbec. This full-bodied wine was aged in French Oak barrels for 24 months.

“Big nose with licorice and cherry. Body is tart red fruit, black cherry, and smoke,” a CellarTracker reviewer says. “Deep red fruit, cranberries, cherries, leather, some black pepper.”

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers come up short, 38-34.

Friday:

Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 5 Iowa (4-0, 1-0), 8 p.m. on FS1. If you think the Terps just played a Friday night game, you are right. They won at Illinois earlier this month and are back in “subprime” time (as I explained last week in this place).

“I guess we’re still the ‘New Kids on the Block’ with having to play two Friday night games in back to back weeks almost,” said Head Coach Mike Locksley. “At some point, we’ll get full membership (in the Big Ten) to where we may not have to do this.”

At 4-0 the Terps are most certainly Hangin’ Tough, but will they have The Right Stuff when they play a gauntlet of Big Ten teams (five of their next eight foes are currently ranked in the Top 20) Step By Step? While the Terps behind quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa lead the conference in passing, they’ve not yet faced a defense as good as the Hawkeyes who rank third in the Big Ten in yards allowed, second in points given up and first in passes intercepted.

The matchup of the night might be a Maryland pass rush that leads the conference in sacks find their way past the Iowa offensive line that has trouble protecting quarterback Spencer Petras (11 sacks allowed ranks ninth in the Big Ten)?

Presto’s Pick: this one’s for the Terrapins, 24-20.

Saturday:

Navy (0-3, 0-1 AAC) vs. UCF (2-1), 3:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network. The Midshipmen are 0-3 for the first time since 2001 when they finished 0-10 and ushered in the Paul Johnson regime that included current Head Coach Ken Niumatalolo as an assistant coach. They face a Knights team coming off of a needed bye after they lost quarterback Dillon Gabriel to a collarbone injury in their last-minute loss to Louisville.

But they’ve got Northwestern transfer running back Isaiah Bowser (268 yards on 5.3 per carry) who helped lead the Wildcats to the Big Ten Championship Game in 2018. Defensively UCF is the best team in the AAC against the run (78.3 yards per game and 3.1 per carry), which is the one thing that Navy does well and the thing they need to do well in order to be successful.

The Mids offense converts just 25% of third downs and even though we’re just 25% of the way through their season, if that number doesn’t get better, it’s going to be one long autumn.

Presto’s Pick: Mids keep it close but not close enough, falling 27-14.

Howard loses to Sacred Heart, Georgetown slips to Colgate, Richmond beats Elon, Morgan State slips to St. Francis (PA).

Last Week: 8-1.

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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