Presto’s Picks: Closing Month may provide a November to remember for Maryland

Leave it to Maryland head coach Mike Locksley to upstage one of my catchphrases.

I’ve maintained for years that November is college football’s Closing Month as we thin the playoff contention herd, conference championships are determined and bowl eligibility is either secured or denied.

“We always say ‘They remember November,’ and we’ve put ourselves in pretty good position,” Locksley said Tuesday in his weekly press conference. “For us, it’s about the finish.”

For the record, “they remember November” sounds a lot snappier and doesn’t make you think about the Semisonic song “Closing Time” for the next week.

But there’s a different feel to games this month that gives you goosebumps, and it’s not just the falling temperatures. It’s No. 1 Georgia hosting No. 2 Tennessee between the hedges with the SEC East up for grabs. It’s Big Ten unbeatens Ohio State and Michigan trying to avoid trap games in Evanston and Piscataway. It’s Big 12 leading TCU trying to stay under the radar, but on track for a College Football Playoff berth. It’s Clemson looking to play its way back into the Playoff, plus USC and UCLA staying up past everybody’s bedtime on the East Coast.

Maryland, nine years into conference membership, is still looking for its first Big Ten winning record. Bring on back-to-back-to-back battles against conference heavyweights Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State.

Will this be a “November to remember” for the right reasons?

Maryland (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) at Wisconsin (4-4, 2-3), noon, Big Ten Network

There’s good news from College Park about Taulia Tagovailoa: The junior quarterback returns to the lineup after sitting out the last two weeks (albeit only one game) with an aggravated knee injury. He’ll face an intriguing pass rush that is led by Nick Herbig, whose six sacks lead the Big Ten, but one that’s ordinary otherwise (14 sacks for the team is tied for 10th in the conference).

The Badgers have won three of four games after making a coaching change last month, and are led by running back Braelon Allen (870 yards on 5.8 per carry), the first of several big tests this month for a Terps defense that allows the second-most yards per game in the league. These are the games Mike Locksley has built this team for, and the week off will give his Terps the extra energy they lacked since September.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 27-23.

Virginia (3-5, 1-4 ACC) vs. No. 17 North Carolina (7-1, 4-0), noon, ACC Network

The Tar Heels bring the ACC’s best offense (No. 1 in scoring, total yards, passing yards and third-down efficiency) to Charlottesville, with quarterback Drake Maye picking up where Washington Commanders draftee Sam Howell left off.

The redshirt freshman has a 71% completion rate, 333 yards passing, and a 29-3 touchdown-interception ratio. But UNC can be scored upon, ranking last in the ACC in passing yards, total yards and points allowed — perhaps they’re focusing more on stopping the run, as they’re 13th in that category.

But the Cavaliers’ offense continues to resemble a sinkhole after producing just a pair of regulation field goals in their loss to Miami. The 34 points against Richmond on Labor Day weekend seems like a lifetime ago — the offense has been held to 62 points over four October games. I don’t know what they have cooked up for November, but 2022 has been a waste of record-setting QB Brennan Armstrong’s talents.

Kippy and Buffy know there’s nothing worse than wasting a good wine at a bad tailgate, and they begin their “November to remember” by hitting all cylinders with a bottle of 2017 Primal Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon. Tasting notes include fig, cherry and raspberry. “Deep and dark aromas of black cherry and graphite are inviting on the nose,” Wine Enthusiast’s review reads. “It is soft and elegant in texture, with a powerful blackberry flavor that’s edged by decent acidity and a touch of violet.”

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers provide more acidity to their fans that is not decent, with no touch of victory, in a 28-13 loss.

Virginia Tech (2-6, 1-4 ACC) vs. Georgia Tech (3-5, 2-3), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3

Viewers of last week’s Miami-Virginia 14-12 quadruple-OT snoozer may experience déjà vu if they check this one out: I’m not saying this matchup might set the game back several decades, but the Yellow Jackets rank last in the conference in scoring, passing and total yards, sacks allowed and on third down. The Hokies are 13th in rushing, 12th in passing and 11th in scoring.

Georgia Tech has won three straight in Blacksburg, but had its “fired coach bounce” last month. One feels that after consecutive single-digit defeats coach Brent Pry’s team finds the necessary answers down the stretch this Saturday.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies win in a defensive duel, 18-12.

Navy (3-5, 3-3 AAC) at Cincinnati (6-2, 3-1), 4 p.m., ESPNU

The only thing worse than poking the bear is running into the bear right after it’s been poked. The Midshipmen meet the Bearcats fresh off their upset loss to UCF, and I’m sure coach Luke Fickell reminds his team, which is only one season removed from making the College Football Playoff, that their closest victory in the 2021 regular season was over Navy (a 27-20 win in Annapolis).

While the Mids have scored 27 or more points in three of their last four games, new starting quarterback Xavier Arline has completed just 11 of 34 passes in his career and is zero of 4 this year. He does have wheels — Arline scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime last Saturday against Temple — but that might not be enough against the Bearcats.

Presto’s Pick: Mids come up short, 34-14.

James Madison (5-2) at Louisville (5-3), 7:30 p.m., ESPNU

Even though the Dukes have dropped two in a row, the fact that they’re on ESPNU as opposed to ESPN+, 3 or The Ocho is encouraging.

What’s discouraging is that the Cardinals have picked up steam with three straight wins (and four in five games) and are averaging 35 points since Week Two.

Malik Cunningham was a preseason Heisman possibility until he struggled in September, but the Louisville defense has been dominant as of late, recording eight takeaways last week in an upset win against then-No. 10 Wake Forest. Todd Centeio missed the loss to Marshall due to an oblique injury, and even if he’s able to play, he did throw three interceptions in his most recent start.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes can’t keep pace with the Cardinals in a 37-26 loss.

Howard falls to North Carolina Central, Georgetown loses to St. Francis (PA), Richmond over New Hampshire, Towson tumbles to Villanova, Morgan State over Stony Brook, William & Mary handles Hampton.

Last Week: 7-2.

Overall: 59-22.

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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