Presto’s Picks: Road trips for Maryland, Navy and James Madison

Baseball fans love to tell you how “no two ballpark dimensions are exactly the same.” While every college football field measures 100 yards from end zone to end zone, you could make the case that no two stadiums are alike.

While Maryland and Navy both visit conference foes this weekend, it could be assumed that Gerald J. Ford Stadium (named after a trustee and not the 38th President) in Dallas and Memorial Stadium in Bloomington won’t necessarily have the same feel as Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Mississippi. Because No. 9 Mississippi meets Auburn with a chance to match its best start since the 2014 team went 7-0.

Coach Lane Kiffin has transformed the school in his two-plus years at the helm into a contender in college football’s toughest division (with apologies to the Big Ten East). And if you tune into this SEC West showdown game, you’ll hear the chant “Hotty Toddy” early and often. Kind of like the old beverage, but not really.

As ESPN’s Doug Ward wrote in 2010, “‘Hotty Toddy’ has no real meaning, but it means everything in Oxford. For students, fans and alumni, it is a greeting, cheer and secret handshake all rolled into one.

“‘Hotty Toddy’ is the spirit of Ole Miss.”

You could make the case that the spirit of Auburn University is “Hotty Seaty” with Coach Bryan Harsin’s pants scorching since the team ended 2021 with five straight losses. This is a school that jettisoned Harsin’s predecessor Gus Malzahn despite being ranked in the top 10 during each of his eight years at the school (and beating Bama three times).

Winning the SEC doesn’t give one true job security on the plains: Tommy Tuberville was pink-slipped four years after a 13-0 season, while Gene Chizik became persona non grata two seasons after a national championship. Five Power Five schools, from Nebraska to Wisconsin, have already made changes this season, and the Auburn situation is squarely in the spotlight.

Not just because Harsin might get fired, but the ensuing search could bring Deion Sanders over from FCS Jackson State or Lane Kiffin from Ole Miss. Hotty Toddy, indeed …

Friday Night

Navy (2-3, 2-1 AAC) at SMU, 7:30 p.m., ESPN.

Friday night lights tighten up the workweek, and Coach Ken Niumatalolo says he always focuses his team more on the mental aspects than the hitting with one less day of recovery from the previous game. The Midshipmen are coming off of a 53-point performance against Tulsa, the most points they have scored since November 2019 when they put 56 on the board against Houston.

The Mustangs haven’t given up 50+ points this fall, but they are allowing 39 per game during a three-game losing streak. However, SMU does lead the AAC in passing, total yards and scoring thanks to the Tanner Mordecai to Rasheed Rice — 34% of the team’s catches and 39% of its passing yards — connection.

Can Navy’s defense find a way to contain the duo? And can Tai Lavatai and the offense deliver another gem like last Saturday when they gained over 400 yards on the ground?

Presto’s Pick: Mids come up short, 28-21.


Virginia Tech (2-4, 1-2 ACC) vs. Miami, 12:30 p.m., ESPN3.

Dueling three-game losing streaks in the midday sun, the Hokies are hoping for home cooking as they’ve posted both of their victories this fall in Blacksburg. Do not underestimate the power of those smoked turkey legs!

You can, however, underestimate the power of situational stats: The Hokies are the best in the ACC at getting off of the field on third down, but they’ve allowed 41 and 45 points the past two weeks.

The Hurricanes come to Lane Stadium leading the conference in passing but have lost three straight since starting 2-0. Not that Virginia Tech is the ‘Canes’ softest foe since Bethune-Cookman, but their offense ranks 13th in the conference in rushing and passing, 12th in total yards, and 11th in scoring.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies have more issues in a 31-17 loss.

Maryland (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) at Indiana, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2.

You never want to lose to a team two weeks in a row — meaning it’s key for the Terrapins to move past last Saturday’s tough 31-29 defeat to Purdue. The way this team has played this year leads one to believe it will. Both schools have lost to Michigan this year, although the Terps fell by seven in the Big House and the Hoosiers lost by 21 at home.

Coach Mike Locksley told the media this week he was wary of IU’s blitz packages, and while they do have 14 sacks this fall, Indiana ranks 13th in the Big Ten against the pass, 13th at getting off of the field on third down and last in points allowed. The Terps pass rush after posting five sacks against Purdue have another great opportunity as Hoosiers QBs have been dropped a conference-high 19 times this fall.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 37-24.

James Madison (5-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) at Georgia Southern, 4 p.m., ESPN+.

If JMU keeps winning, they’re going to have to put them on ESPN2 eventually, right?

The league’s best two offenses go toe-to-toe in Statesboro on Saturday. JMU leads the SBC in scoring, while the Eagles rank second and lead the conference in rushing and passing (simple math leads one to understand they’re No. 1 in total offense as well). They also allow twice as many points per game as the Dukes. And while Kyle Vantrease did lead GSU to a win at Nebraska, (and help oust then-coach Scott Frost) he’s also thrown 11 interceptions this fall. Giving JMU QB Todd Centeio short fields is not a good idea.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes deliver another win, 41-27.

Virginia (2-4, 0-3 ACC) has the week off, but that won’t stop tailgating tandem Kippy & Buffy from enjoying an autumn weekend. (Actually they’re shuttering up the cottage on the Outer Banks.) And while they enjoy red for ACC games and white for nonconference matchups (rosé is for the Spring Game), the bye week is all about a bottle of sparkling with the necessary caviar. To get one’s mind off of a free-falling season, they’re popping the cork on a nonvintage Marquis de la Mysteriale Cuvee de Grand Esprit. According to, it possesses “candied lemon peel and orchard fruit aromas with a zesty and robust mousse that unfolds with layers of caramelized apples and pear with a dark toffee finish.” And as long they’re in the neighborhood, Marshallberg Farms’ Caviar from nearby Smyrna, North Carolina, will do just fine.

Howard loses to Harvard, Richmond beats Villanova, William & Mary slips at Delaware.

Last Week: 5-4.

Overall: 42-15.

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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