Presto’s Picks: College football’s wild west and crazy coastal

Three weeks remain in the regular college football season with the playoff picture beginning to take shape. But for every Big Ten East where Top Ten teams are on collision courses or the SEC East that is in mop-up mode, there are divisions where chaos reigns.

The Big Ten West, unlike Maryland’s elite-dominated East Division, has four teams tied for the lead at 4-2. Wisconsin owns the tiebreaker over Minnesota, Purdue, and Iowa-for now (they wrap up the regular season at the Golden Gophers). Its late-season scramble makes the often chaotic Coastal Division of the ACC appear somewhat tame. But rest assured, even with Pitt’s Thursday night win over preseason division favorite North Carolina, there remains plenty of time for Coastal craziness.

The Panther triumph does eliminate the Tar Heels, but four teams remain alive including Virginia (which controls its own path to repeating as division champ) and Virginia Tech (which needs a four-way tie with the Cavaliers, Pitt, and Miami to emerge). I pity the Big 12 and AAC that don’t currently have divisions to add to their fun.

Virginia Tech (4-5, 2-3 ACC) vs. Duke (3-6, 0-5), 3:30 p.m., ACC Network.

Call this “the battle between the stoppable force and the movable object.” The Hokies rank last in the ACC in scoring, while the Blue Devils allow the most points per game in the conference. Duke’s defense is so accommodating (also last in passing, total yards, and third down) the fact their offense is averaging 14 points in league play sneaks under the radar. But they can run the ball: Mataeo Durant averages 118 yards per game and the Hokies are fresh from coughing up 234 yards on the ground in a loss at Boston College. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister missed most of that game with an upper body injury and wide receiver Tre Turner was out with “air in his neck” caused by a hit the week before against Georgia Tech. If both can’t play Saturday it’s going to be one long afternoon.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies hang on, 20-15.

Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) at No. 9 Michigan State (8-1, 5-1), 4 p.m., FOX.

Both teams lost winnable games last weekend, although the Spartans’ hangover of falling from the ranks of the unbeaten at Purdue is likely stinging more than the Terps remaining in “five-win anxiety” for at least another week (Rutgers can’t come soon enough). Maryland’s issues stopping the run (12th in the Big Ten) will be tested by MSU running back Kenneth Walker III, who not only leads the nation in rushing (148.9 yards per game), but also has the most yards after contact (976) and 20-plus yard carries (16). As if the Terps don’t have enough problems controlling big plays in the passing game. With the Spartans’ defense ranking last in the conference against the pass and overall this has all of the makings of a shootout.

Presto’s Pick: Terps tumble, 38-24.

Virginia (6-3) vs No. 7 Notre Dame (8-1), 7:30 p.m., ABC.

The Cavaliers come off of their bye week hoping they have their defensive issues sorted out: not including shutouts of William & Mary and Duke, U.Va. is allowing almost 40 points per game. The Fighting Irish still have playoff hopes, but only two of their wins this fall have come against teams that currently have winning records, with both of those victories coming in September. The status of quarterback Brennan Armstrong is up in the air as the nation’s second-leading passer suffered an apparent rib injury in the loss to BYU Oct. 30. In addition to missing his arm the Cavaliers offense can ill afford to miss his legs. His seven touchdowns rushing lead the team, he’s 19 yards shy of leading the team in rushing (Armstrong would be the leader if they counted sacks as yards lost passing like they do in the NFL), and he has been U.Va.’s top ground-gainer the last two games.

Kippy & Buffy are back for the home stretch of tailgates, and a November non-conference game means they are looking for a white wine with a little warmth. They’re going to enjoy a bottle of d’Arenberg the Hermit Crab 2018 Viognier-Marsanne. The Australian wine tastes “Effusive, juicy and ripe, with peach, apricot and melon flavors that are generous and plump,” the winery website reads. “Floral and spice notes emerge on the finish. Shows terrific harmony and persistence.”

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers show persistence but not enough harmony in a 31-20 loss.

Georgetown loses at Lehigh, Howard comes up short against North Carolina Central, Morgan State slips at Albany, Towson tops Elon, James Madison wins at William & Mary, Richmond defeats Delaware.

Last Week: 6-2.

Overall: 65-22.

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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