Halloween is here again even though decorations and the corresponding candy have been in the stores for two months. For the record, it should be mentioned that eggnog, a Christmas staple, has been available as early as Sept. 20 at many supermarkets (my brother in New Hampshire called to tell me).
Why can’t we just enjoy the here and now? Along those lines, Maryland and the rest of the Big Ten released the 2023 football schedule with five weeks remaining in the 2022 regular season. Not to be that guy, but the announcement of next year’s schedule should at least be held back until Conference Championship week.
At least the Terps get a bye week during which they can digest the slate (highlights include Virginia coming to College Park in September). They also get to enjoy bowl eligibility after posting their sixth victory last Saturday.
“I feel like we’ve got a group of really hungry guys that are excited about bowl eligibility, but understand that this is kind of our standard,” head coach Mike Locksley said. “We’ve been going 12 straight weeks: four weeks of camp, eight straight games. This bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for us in an opportunity to get healthy.”
James Madison (5-2) also is idle and needs to get healthy after consecutive losses, leaving three sub-. 500 teams to go trick or treating this week. Virginia Tech, Virginia and Navy each began the seasons hoping for full bags of candy in the form of reaching postseason play and they’ve all taken turns getting the proverbial rock.
The Hokies have been hampered by an offense that’s spun its wheels since week one and often conks out after intermission (Virginia Tech averages eight points per second half), while Virginia’s offensive line issues have undercut Brennan Armstrong’s senior season (career lows in completion percentage, yards per attempt, as well as touchdown to interception ratio.)
Secondary breakdowns have been the primary problem for Navy (Mids rank ninth in the AAC in passing yards allowed and last in defensive passing efficiency). While each school can still sneak into the postseason party with a hot streak, it’s going to take one incredible costume to infiltrate the group of teams that belong.
Happy Halloween and pass the eggnog before it goes bad.
Virginia Tech (2-5, 2-3 ACC) at No. 24 NC State (5-2, 1-2), 7:30 p.m., ESPN.
The Hokies under former coach Frank Beamer made Thursday night their personal playground, and even with their loss to West Virginia last month the school is 7-3 on Thursday night since 2010.
The Wolfpack are minus quarterback Devin Leary for the rest of the season after the Preseason ACC Player of the Year suffered a torn pec muscle in the win over Florida State. Senior Jack Chambers started the loss at Syracuse, throwing for 160 yards while running for 58 more.
But defense is where this team hangs its hat, ranking second in the ACC on third down, overall yardage allowed, and points surrendered. Not good news for a Virginia Tech team that was shut out for three quarters in its previous game (Miami). When does men’s basketball season start for the defending ACC Tournament champs?
Presto’s Pick: Hokies come up short, 23-13.
Virginia (3-4, 1-3 ACC) vs. Miami (3-4. 1-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3.
I’m surprised at the time and channel, because if ever a matchup merited the “10 a.m. Eastern on the Ocho,” it would be this dubious duel. The Cavaliers are coming off their first conference win while the Hurricanes turned the ball over eight times in a home loss to Duke.
U.Va. has finished on the short end of this Coastal Division clash five times in the last seven years, but has won four of the last five played in Charlottesville (the 2020 game was flipped south due to COVID restructuring of the schedule). The Canes rank second in the ACC in stopping the run while their 24 sacks is second-most in the league. It’s discouraging news for a Cavaliers offense that’s had trouble running as well as protecting the passer.
Kippy and Buffy return to campus and know that protecting the palate is one key to a successful tailgate. After the success of a Cabernet Franc on the road, they’re going to enjoy a merlot at home, but one with 10% Cab Franc grapes: the 2019 Montes merlot is from Chile.
“Plum and a light note of thyme shape the nose,” writes Jesica Vargas of Wine Enthusiast. “This full-bodied red offers black olive flavors blended with blackberry and supported by good acidity. It’s a flavorful wine with a persistent finish.”
Just like Brennan Armstrong will have to duck Hurricane defenders all afternoon, duck is the proper pairing for this Chilean merlot.
Presto’s Pick: Virginia folds under a persistent pass rush, slipping 24-17.
Navy (2-5, 2-3 AAC) vs. Temple (2-5, 0-3), 3:30 p.m., CBSSN.
Proof that not all 2-5 teams are created equally: the Owls have been shut out by the likes of Duke and U.Mass. and they’ve also coughed up 70 points to UCF (although I doubt there’s a special trophy at stake).
They’re last in the conference in rushing, passing efficiency, total yardage and scoring. After the Mids defense endured a five-week stretch of facing three fifth-year senior quarterbacks (with a pair of fourth-year seniors thrown into the mix), true freshman E.J. Warner (son of HOF QB Kurt Warner) has to be a sight for sore eyes.
Meanwhile the Navy offense has hung 30+ points on the Owls in their last two meetings. It’s also senior day at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen send their seniors out in style with a 33-14 victory.
Howard loses to Norfolk State, Georgetown slips at Lafayette, Morgan State beats South Carolina State, Richmond tops Maine, William & Mary gets by Rhode Island, Towson tumbles at Monmouth.
Last Week: 5-4.