Presto’s Picks: Terps and Dukes chase dreams while Midshipmen, Hokies and Cavaliers try to avoid nightmares

College Football’s “Show Me Month” wraps up Saturday with more than a few surprises, from Colorado’s rise to Clemson’s struggles.

We’ve seen Buffaloes’ Head Coach Deion Sanders have not one, but two sons ready for “prime time.” This week, they’ll kick off against No. 5 USC at 10 a.m. local time, while the joke is on the Trojans who are an hour behind. Will CU catch them napping?

Two of the five local FBS schools are in line to enjoy dream seasons, while three others are trying to avoid nightmares.

Maryland and James Madison can enter October unbeaten, and while they don’t hang banners for such trivialities (unless you’re the Indianapolis Colts), a 5-0 start would be huge for a Terps program trying to take the next step in a conference where they’ve yet to post a winning record, while also proving that the Dukes’ initial season in FBS wasn’t beginner’s luck.

Conversely, Virginia is trying to avoid its first 0-5 start since 1982 and Virginia Tech is looking for its first win against a Power Five school since last September.

Navy? Just like messed up sleep patterns can turn your week upside-down the Mids have had to deal with a flight to Ireland, one bye week, a five-day turnaround and now another bye week. And at 1-2 they won’t have another nap until late October.


James Madison (4-0, 1-0 Sun Belt) vs South Alabama (2-2), noon, ESPNU

Did the Dukes miss Bridgeforth Stadium or what? They return home after winning three straight Saturdays on the road by a combined 10 points. Harrisonburg is much more hospitable, at least during the Curt Cignetti era as the team is 27-2 at home since he took over the program.

The Jaguars won’t be intimidated by the crowd though, not after posting a 33-7 at Oklahoma State in front of 53,855 in Stillwater (making OSU Coach Mike Gundy’s mullet turn upside-down). La’Damian Webb rushed for 151 yards that day and he’ll be a big test for a JMU defense that leads the Sun Belt in stopping the run.

In addition, despite allowing 34 points to Virginia and 38 to Utah State JMU leads the Sun Belt Conference with 18 sacks and they’re second in getting off the field on third down.

One word of caution: South Alabama has branded itself as “USA,” and some think it’s to make opponents feel they’re going up against an entire nation. Don’t be freaked out when you see the scoreboard graphic.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes deliver a 28-20 victory.

Virginia (0-4, 0-1 ACC) at Boston College (1-3, 0-2), 2 p.m., CW

Insert “One Tree Hill” jokes here. Despite being conference foes, this is the Cavaliers first trip to Chestnut Hill since 2010. The Eagles came close to upsetting Florida State there two weeks ago, but committed 18 penalties (shades of the Cavaliers three personal fouls in the final minute against NC State).

UVA coach Tony Elliott feels they’re close after being in position to win each of the last three weeks. The status of quarterback Tony Muskett remains a question mark, but one should feel better with Anthony Colandrea working against a BC defense that ranks last in the ACC in passing efficiency, sacks, and getting off of the field on third down.

Of course the Cavaliers offense is last in rushing and scoring, while standing second worst at protecting the passer and moving the chains. Something’s got to give, right?

Kippy & Buffy know a good bottle is the gift that keeps on giving, and they hope to provide some pregame momentum by tailgating this week with the 2019 Barboursville Octagon. It’s a blend of merlot (62%), Cabernet Franc (34%), and Petit Verdot (4%).

“Attractive deep garnet color with elegant aromas of blueberry, black currant, fresh flowers and dry herbs,” the winery website reads. “The structure expresses medium body, silky tannins and a cool, refined finish.”

Perfect pairing with the Yankee Shepherd’s Pie that Sully & Smitty’s sister (their BC friends) will be bringing. And trust me, the Shepherd’s pie tastes much better than it looks.

Presto’s Pick: Cavaliers wish their season tasted better than it looks after a 35-28 loss.

Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) vs Indiana (2-2, 0-1), 3:30 p.m., BTN

Prepare to enjoy all four quarters of this one, as six of the last seven meetings have resulted in one-possession affairs. And brace yourself for some fireworks: those six meeting have seen these teams combine for an average of 72 points.

The Hoosiers offense is built around sophomore Jaylin Lucas (184 yards rushing, 15 catches) and has scored 34 regulation points in three games against FBS schools (Akron took them to overtime).

Meanwhile, the Terrapin defense has caught fire with 11 takeaways over the last three games (and five in the win at Michigan State). Defensively Indiana is led by linebacker Aaron Casey (41 tackles with five sacks) and they did hold then-No. 3 Ohio State to 10 first half points in the season opener, but IU also allows a Big Ten-worst 4.7 yards per carry.

Roman Hemby rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in last year’s meeting, and if the Hoosiers’ D has answers for the sophomore the rest of Maryland’s running back rotation (Colby McDonald & Antwain Littleton II) can pose more questions.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 34-14.

Navy (1-2, 0-1 AAC) vs South Florida (2-2, 1-1), 3:30 p.m., CBSSN

Both teams have had their brushes with the nation’s elite this fall, with the Midshipmen getting routed by Notre Dame and the Bulls holding Alabama in check for most of their game before falling 17-3 (good luck getting Nick Saban to leave Tuscaloosa for a nonconference game anytime soon).

USF also brings a stingy defense to Annapolis, ranking second in the AAC at stopping the run (while holding foes to 3.1 yards per carry) and their 13 sacks are tied for second-most in the league. The last time they had two weeks to prepare for a foe the Mids blanked Wagner. South Florida will provide a stiffer test.

Another question regarding the 16-day hiatus is will this team be more rested or rusty? The option offense gets better upon repetition, and especially with the new wrinkles thrown in this offseason it wouldn’t be a complete shock if it takes a while for Tai Lavatai and company to regain their rhythm.

They might not have a while if USF quarterback Byrum Brown (885 yards and six touchdowns passing, 357 yards and five touchdowns rushing) is able to get going against a Navy defense that’s had issues getting to the passer (three sacks, tied for tenth in the AAC) this fall.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen sink, 27-17.

Virginia Tech (1-3) vs Pitt (1-3, 0-1 ACC), 8 p.m., ACCN

The Hokies open conference play at Lane Stadium, and that plays well in this series: since 1997 the home team is 14-4 against the spread. Causes for concern begin on the ground as they allow 5.1 yards per carry this fall, including 214 yards rushing in their loss at Marshall.

The Panthers rolled for 326 yards rushing in last year’s matchup, and while Israel Abanikanda (320 yards and six touchdowns in that game) is now a New York Jet, his successor Rodney Hammond Jr. tallied a season-high 83 yards in the Panthers’ league opener.

Grant Wells remains a question mark with his ankle injury and if he is able to play, one wonders how rusty he’ll be. The Panthers defense currently ranks second in the ACC against the pass and in sacks, and even though Kyron Drones has improved as Wells’ understudy he won’t be able to carry this offense against Pitt.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies are humbled, 26-23.

Last Week: 6-3.

Season: 26-10.

Presented by FanDuel Sportsbook.

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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