Presto’s Picks: Virginia plays emotional matinee while Pac-12 enjoys one final run

There are many reasons to love the Pac-12 as it enters its final season after dissolving in record time this summer. The Big East needed two poachings by the ACC to become completely toothless.

And while I know many of us can’t wait for matchups that include Maryland-Oregon, Virginia-Stanford, Virginia Tech-Cal, and West Virginia-Utah, there’s something that’s going to be lost here.

Those of a certain age remember when that league dominated the Rose Bowl, often against favored Big Ten teams poised for a national championship. From 1969 to 1986, the conference went 16-2 in “The Granddaddy of Them All,” while giving Ohio State and Michigan fans nightmares for months to follow. In a sport where running ruled most game plans, the conference gave the NFL big arms from Jim Plunkett to Warren Moon, and Troy Aikman to Carson Palmer.

The league also delivered outstanding rivalries where the unexpected became the expected in games like USC-UCLA (did the sport ever look better than when the Trojans wore red and the Bruins wore blue for their games at the Coliseum), Washington-Washington State, and Arizona-Arizona State. Many in November saw an upset or two prevent a school from a sure date in Pasadena. Who can forget the most improbable of finishes in 1982 during the Stanford-Cal game (“The Band is on the Field”).

More recently, the “Pac-12 after dark” delivered plenty of excitement as one wrapped up a day’s viewing (who says nothing good happens after midnight?). But selfishly what I loved the most the conference was that unlike the Big Ten or Big 12 (or in college hoops the Atlantic 10), the Pac-12/10/8’s name actually reflected its membership number over the years.

So it was easy to take pleasure the when the future Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC schools (plus Washington State and Oregon State) started this year 13-0. Even though rooting for the very schools that caused the league’s demise feels like cheering for Cal or the guy from the White Star Line in “Titanic.” Here’s to one final fall before the sun sets for good on the Pac-12.

This week’s games:

James Madison (1-0) at Virginia (0-1), noon, ESPN2

Before the game at Scott Stadium, fans will honor the three players killed in last November’s shooting as the program, school, and community continue to heal and move forward.

On the field, the Cavaliers looked for positives in a tough loss to No. 12 Tennessee, while my Duke fan-friends were texting about their shortcomings in what would be a 38-3 victory (albeit over Bucknell). There are questions surrounding Virginia quarterback Tony Muskett’s status after the Monmouth transfer suffered an injury against the Vols. If he can’t play, then head coach Tony Elliott will go with true freshman Anthony Colandrea, who threw seven passes in his first college action last Saturday. JMU also played multiple quarterbacks in week one with Jordan McCloud’s arm and Alonza Barnett III’s legs doing damage (if only they could merge the two together). The Cavalier defense will also have to contend with Dukes running back Kaelon Black who averaged over ten yards per carry in posting his third career 100-yard game and brings fresh legs (only 12 carries) from Harrisonburg.

Kippy and Buffy enjoy their first home tailgate by bringing a bottle of white from the Harrisonburg-area Bluestone Vineyards. The 2022 Bridgewater Gold is 85% Stainless Chardonnay and 15% Petit Manseng. It’s “perfect for pairing with a tailgate or fine dining,” according to the winery website, and it’s “clean and refreshing, this dry white is all fruit in the front and all mineral on the finish.” Break out the brie.

Presto’s Pick: Brace yourself for a rough afternoon as the Dukes defeat the Cavaliers 24-13.

Virginia Tech (1-0) vs Purdue (0-1), noon, ESPNU.

The Hokies got better as their season-opening game against Old Dominion progressed, while the Boilermakers let a double-digit lead dissolve in the second half of their loss to Fresno State. The defending Big Ten West champs have a new coach as Jeff Brohm left for his alma mater Louisville. They also have a new quarterback as Aidan O’Connell left for the NFL and Las Vegas Raiders. Texas transfer Hudson Card’s top target is Deion Burks. The sophomore tallied four catches for 152 yards and two scores against the Bulldogs. It’s just one game, but the Hokies pass defense earned high marks with five sacks while holding ODU to under four yards per pass attempt.

Presto’s Pick: Hokies hang on, 23-19.

Navy (0-1) vs Wagner (0-1), 3:30 p.m., CBSSN

The Midshipmen try to bounce back from a 42-3 humbling by then-No. 13 Notre Dame. After a week off to re-set and recalibrate, they battle an NEC team that fell by 30 points in their opener to Fordham, but they aren’t taking an FCS team lightly especially after the way they played last year in a 14-7 Week 1 loss to Delaware. Can the defense contain a pass-first offense led by Steven Krajewski (334 yards and two TD’s against the Rams)? And will Tai Lavatai and the passing game be able to stretch the Seahawks secondary?

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen bounce back with a 37-10 victory.

Maryland (1-0) vs Charlotte (1-0), 7:30 p.m., NBC

The Big Ten joins the prime time parade this year, although the early schedule looks less than ideal. Last week, Penn State pasted West Virginia 38-15 and next week’s Purdue-Syracuse showdown isn’t exactly get the juices flowing. The Terps topped the 49ers last year 56-21, helping usher out the Will Healy era (he was fired after a 1-7 start and a 15-24 mark over three and a half seasons).

Enter former Biff Poggi, who actually coached Mike Locksley’s son, Kai, at the Gilman School in Baltimore. The former Michigan assistant has mined the transfer portal well with 13 ex-Big Ten players suiting up for the AAC school (including six from Maryland). The Terps defense that was stretched last week on the ground (148 yards on 4.4 per carry) by Towson will be tested by dual-threat quarterback Jalon Jones who ran and passed for touchdowns against South Carolina State. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa had one of his better days last year (27 of 31 for 391 yards and four touchdowns) against the 49ers. In the opener, he hit 22 of 33 passes with seven of those incompletions being drops and a few more of those being throw-aways. Tagovailoa appears more than ready for prime time.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins Triumph, 45-17.

Howard beats Morgan State, Georgetown gets by Sacred Heart, Richmond falls to Michigan State, Towson tops Monmouth, William & Mary over Wofford.

Last Week: 5-2.

Overall: 6-2.

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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