Presto’s Picks: Maryland, James Madison wrap up regular seasons; major rivals meet

How was your Thanksgiving? The beauty of the holiday plate is that even if you’re not a big turkey (or ham) fan, the sides more than compensate, in fact so much, that it’s not as much of a meal with a main course and sides, but a meal of sides that happen to star a main course.

Followed by plenty of pie –– this year’s winner was my brother’s pumpkin cheesecake, but I’m always partial for my mother’s mince-meat pie.

The final week of the college football season offers plenty of sides, from Ole Miss-Mississippi State to a flurry of Friday matchups that include the fight for first place in the AAC (hold your breath).

Saturday’s main course begins in Columbus, where Ohio State-Michigan involves two unbeatens for the first time since 2006, followed by Auburn-Alabama, where the winner won’t advance to the SEC Championship Game for the third time since 2007. The dessert is Notre Dame-USC, which even when it doesn’t have the National Championship, BCS or playoff implications, is one of those games that draws fans’ attention from all over the country. There’s nothing like a special rivalry.

Maryland is in its ninth year of playing in the Big Ten, and will wrap up their season with their neighbor from the northeast Rutgers for the seventh time in that span. But don’t construct a Civil Conflict Trophy just yet.

Like Penn State, the Scarlet Knights help comprise the eastern wing of the league, and when you continue to meet on the final day of the season, the rivalry question will never leave the conversation.

BONUS PICK: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan, noon, FOX.

Now this is a rivalry. The signature showdown of the Big Ten will send one school to the Championship Game, while the other will start lobbying for Playoff inclusion, while rooting for every other team in contention to lose. Each team had tough times putting Maryland away this fall, with special teams mishaps looming large for the Terps in those losses. The Buckeyes lead the Big Ten in passing and total yardage, while also scoring the most points per game.

The Wolverines are No. 1 against the run and the pass in the conference, while boasting the most productive ground game in the league. But Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum is a question mark after tweaking his knee in last week’s win over Illinois. Meanwhile, Ohio State’s Heisman candidate CJ Stroud is looking to bounce back from a subpar showing at Maryland.

Presto’s Pick: Buckeyes but barely, 20-17.

Maryland (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) vs. Rutgers (4-7, 1-7), noon, BTN.

Only two more seasons where these two schools will be the “new kids in town.” Enjoy this while you can. Both teams began the season 3-0, and while many the Terps’ November has not necessarily been one to remember (for what it’s worth the loss at home to Purdue is the one that still stings), they haven’t experienced the slide of the Scarlet Knights: four of their seven Big Ten losses have come by more than 30 points.

Greg Schiano’s team ranks 12th in the Big Ten in scoring and 13th in points allowed. But the real killer might be the conference-low 15 sacks, because if there’s one thing that’s been bothering Taulia Tagovailoa during the three game losing streak, it’s the 17 sacks suffered. Maryland has won five of seven in the series with bowl bids being locked up thanks to season-ending triumphs in 2016 and 2021.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph again with a 37-16 win.

James Madison (7-3, 5-2 Sun Belt) vs. Coastal Carolina (9-1, 6-1), noon, ESPNU.

The Dukes are not eligible for postseason play in their first season of FBS play, but they can make a major statement by affecting the SBC race. JMU leads the Sun Belt in scoring, while ranking third in passing and fourth in rushing. The Chanticleers allow the most passing yards per game in the conference. Coastal is also down a quarterback with Grayson McCall out with a foot injury for the rest of the regular season, and in the Chanticleers’ one game without him they were held to 26 points in a win over Southern Miss.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes finish the season with a flourish in 34-17 win.

Richmond (8-3) vs. Davidson (8-3), 2 p.m., ESPN+. FCS First Round.

Yes, it’s playoff time in the college football world and one can only be shocked at how the FCS tournament survives with integrity, despite having more than four teams participate (24!! Oh the humanity!).

While 10-1 William & Mary has a bye into the round of sixteen, the Spiders make their first postseason appearances since 2016, when they reached the Quarterfinals.

The Wildcats punched their playoff ticket when Dayton missed a fourth quarter two-point conversion in their regular season finale. Former VMI quarterback returned to FCS after a year at Maryland and has completed more than 70% of his passes for 3,000+ yards and a 24 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

Presto’s Pick: Spiders advance with a 33-21 win.

Last Week: 5-3.

Overall: 78-32.

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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