Presto’s College Football Picks: ‘Moving Month’ for Maryland, Navy, and JMU-while Virginia and Virginia Tech try to get moving

If September is College Football’s “Show Me Month,” October is the sport’s “Moving Month.” Pretenders and contenders are separated and schools surge up or fall down the standings and rankings. Nonconference cupcakes are replaced by league foes and multiple home games are swapped out for consecutive weekends on the road in many cases.

Maryland is looking to stake its claim as a program on the rise and plays three of its four October Big Ten games at home — the road trip is to Indiana — while James Madison and Navy each play four league games against teams that are a combined 8-8.



Meanwhile, Virginia and Virginia Tech begin “Moving Month” stuck in place after 2-2 Septembers and while each has the comfort of playing in the Coastal Division (four of the five ranked ACC teams and all five unbeatens reside in the Atlantic) the Hokies play three of four this month away from Blacksburg and the Cavaliers have scored 39 points in three games against FBS opponents. One best get a move on it.

Saturday

Navy (1-2) at Air Force, noon, CBS.

Yes, that’s right. Noon eastern time. As in “10 a.m. Colorado Springs time,” although Senior Associate Athletic Director Scott Strasemeier did remind the media this week that the game would still be played at “12 o’clock Navy body time”-meaning the Falcons are the ones who have to adjust to the early start. But they do have home field advantage, and the Mids haven’t won out west in this series since 2012 (outscored by an average score of 33-12 since). And this week’s test for a defense that has played well (fifth nationally against the run) is an Air Force ground game (love the irony) that paces FBS with 412 yards per game. The Midshipmen are still finding their groove (3.2 yards per carry with a long of 17) running the ball, and one wonders if Tai Lavatai’s 7-10 for 152 yard performance against East Carolina is more of an isolated incident than a growing trend. At least the game will finish quickly due to all of the runs-meaning they’ll likely end by 3 p.m. ET. Or for those doing the math, around 1 p.m. local time …

Presto’s Pick: Mids come up short, 27-19.
James Madison (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) vs. Texas State, 1:30 p.m., ESPN+.

Can we get a semi-normal kickoff time please? The Dukes are coming off of a thrilling come from behind win at conference darling Appalachian State and face a Bobcats team that’s 0-2 on the road and has been outscored 80-41 in those games. The sound you hear is quarterback Todd Centeio (who averages just under 300 total yards per game while tossing 11 touchdown passes to zero interceptions this fall) licking his chops. But this is a far from one-dimensional new kid on the Sun Belt Conference block: JMU leads the nation in stopping the run (84 yards on 88 attempts, aided by the defense’s 10 sacks through three games) and last week’s first half hiccup was largely the byproduct of turnovers deep in their own end.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes dominate, 45-13.
Maryland (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m., FS1.

While the Terps exceeded expectations in their one-score loss at No. 4 Michigan, Coach Mike Locksley feels “we still have work to do as a program.” And part of that work is battling the likes of Michigan State: the Terps are 2-10 all-time against the Spartans, 1-6 since joining the Big Ten. While MSU has dropped two straight both of those losses came against teams that are currently unbeaten and in this week’s Top 25. They also have a quarterback in Payton Thorne who threw four touchdown passes against the Terps last year, a concern for a Maryland defense that allowed multiple big plays in their loss at Michigan. Offensively Taulia Tagovailoa has to worry about a Spartan pass rush that is tied for the Big Ten lead with 12 sacks. The junior was banged up last Saturday but told the media this week he is “100%). This is the kind of game a Maryland program on the rise wins. And while they’ll have more work to do after Saturday, one feels they’ll find a way to make things work against the Spartans.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 24-20.
Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0 ACC) at North Carolina, 3:30 p.m., ACCN.

Pay close attention when the Tar Heels have the ball- they lead the conference in scoring while the Hokies allow the fewest yards per game. And take your bathroom breaks when Virginia Tech (12th in the ACC in passing, total yards and scoring) tries to move the ball against UNC (last in rushing, passing and scoring defense). And you might want to run errands after intermission: while outscoring foes 53-26 in the first half the Hokies have been outscored 44-30 in the second half. They’ll also have their hands full with freshman quarterback Drake Maye who’s completing 68% of his passes for 308 yards per game while tossing 16 touchdown passes to one interception. Can an underwhelming attack keep pace?

Presto’s Pick: Hokies are humbled in a 32-13 loss.
Virginia (2-2, 0-1 ACC) at Duke, 7:30 p.m. ESPN3.

If the Hokies & Tar Heels gets out of hand, one can always make the quick drive from Chapel Hill to Durham (perhaps UVA and VaTech fans can carpool?). The Blue Devils have already matched last year’s win total while the Cavaliers have looked overwhelmed away from the grounds (it’s not a campus!) this fall. The offense that returned record-setting quarterback Brennan Armstrong ranks 13th in the ACC in passing, third down conversions and scoring through four games. Blame an offensive line that’s yet to gel. And while the Blue Devils don’t boast the most dominant defense (allowing 23 points per game since shutting out Temple in the opener), the Cavaliers know they need a balanced attack if they’re going to avoid an 0-2 conference start.

Kippy & Buffy know that a balanced wine is the key to any successful tailgate, and against the ultimate “bro” school is going with the 2016 Mertiage from … well, Breaux Vineyards in Virginia. Primarily a merlot (45%)-Cabernet Franc (32%) blend (Malbec-12%, Petit Verdot-8%), “it is a clean wine with medium+ intense aromas of dark cherry and caramel,” according to virginiawine.org. “It has medium+ intense flavors of dark cherry, black-berry, and caramel with a medium+ length finish.”

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers need a better finish in a 26-14 loss.

Howard slips at Yale, Morgan State hammers Virginia Lynchburg, Georgetown falls at Fordham, Richmond slips to Elon, Towson tumbles to Delaware, William & Mary gets by Stony Brook.

Last Week: 5-4.

Overall: 26-11.

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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