Presto’s Picks: Homecoming for U.Md., VT with routs served on the midday menu

Homecoming celebration is a dish best served at 3:30 p.m.

Let’s be honest, students don’t always wake up early on Saturday mornings to show up at their best for a noon kickoff. And it’s nice to give the alumni a decent window to tailgate, from my friends Matt and Stacia at Maryland (shrimp dip with Frito’s, plus Coors Light to wash it down) to my pals Ray & Leanne at Virginia Tech (smoked turkey legs with Milwaukee’s Best) without giving them all day to graze.

On Saturday, the Terps and Hokies begin the second halves of their seasons by welcoming back alumni in the midafternoon window, leaving exclusivity at noon for a sneaky/good matchup involving a local school (James Madison and Georgia Southern delivered a doozy of a game last year).

You should at least expect a closer game in Harrisonburg than the noon quartet on the major outlets: On CBS, No. 1 Georgia is a 31.5 point favorite over Vanderbilt, while No. 2 Michigan is favored by 33.5 over Indiana on FOX (even the power of Gus Johnson can’t make this one close).

On ABC, No. 4 Florida State is favored by 17.5 over Syracuse, while No. 11 Alabama is a 19.5 point favorite over Arkansas on ESPN. Even on the streaming service Peacock, No. 3 Ohio State is favored by 19.5 over Purdue. All conference contests, all potential legalized muggings. Each game could see a 30-point lead … before halftime. Pace yourself with the shrimp dip and smoked turkey legs.

Virginia (1-5, 0-2 ACC) is idle this week, but Kippy and Buffy will most definitely be active as they’re shuttering up at a cottage on the Outer Banks. And even though they’ll be in the Carolinas, the 2023 mission of enjoying Virginia wines continues with a bottle of bubbly from Thibaut-Janisson. The “Blanc de Chardonnay” Brut Sparkling has been served at the White House for State Dinners, and it’s more than good enough for the cottage.

“Elegant and suave, with good minerality,” the winery website reads. “Subtle notes of apple, white peach with hints of hazelnuts. Creamy mouthfeel, fine bead, clean and zesty finish.”

The Cavaliers will be looking for a fine bead next weekend when they face nationally ranked North Carolina.

Saturday’s Games:

James Madison (5-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) vs Georgia Southern (4-1, 1-0), noon, ESPN2.

The Dukes were 5-0 and ranked No. 25 last year around this time when they visited the Eagles and gained 675 total yards, only to leave Statesboro with a 45-38 loss. Quarterback Kyle Vantrease (578 yards passing that day) is gone, but Tulsa transfer Davis Brin is directing an offense that leads the Sun Belt in passing (337 yards per game). Did I mention that JMU allows a league-high 311 yards per game through the air?

Georgia Southern also leads the conference in scoring defense and is third best at getting off the field on third down, while the Dukes are a Sun Belt-worst 27.9% at moving the chains on the money down. Both teams enter this showdown off their bye week, and I feel home field will be as huge this year as it was in 2022.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes in a downright dynamic duel, 48-44.

Navy (2, 1-2 AAC) at Charlotte (1-4, 0-1), 2 p.m., ESPN+.

The first-ever meeting between the two schools has the Midshipmen with a chance to win conference games on consecutive weekends for the first time since 2020. The 49ers went into SECU Stadium 1-0 last month and used a 48-yard touchdown pass plus a pick-six to take a 14-0 lead over Maryland, only to fall 38-20. Since then, Coach Biff Poggi’s team has dropped three straight by the average score of 32-16.

Local high school fans will recognize more than a few names, as the former Gilman School and St. Frances Academy coach has 26 players on his roster from the D.C. region. So it’s fair to say those players will expect the AAC’s top ground game (Navy averages 248 yards per game after rumbling for 331 against North Texas).

The question is, can they stop it?

Meanwhile, the Mids pass rush has found new life (eight sacks against the Mean Green) and their D will look to earn another A, this time on the road.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen make it happen with a 27-20 victory.

Maryland (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) vs Illinois (2-4, 0-3), 3:30 p.m., BTN.

It’s Homecoming at SECU Stadium!

I’m bringing Hint of Lime Tostitos. The Illini bring the Big Ten’s leading receiver in Isaiah Williams, who’s 38 catches and 503 yards pace the conference. Terps Coach Mike Locksley said this week that Williams is a guy they need to keep their eyes on every snap, and with cornerback Tarheeb Still a question mark after missing the game at Ohio State, that’s just a tiny bit unsettling.

But, like the guy who brings the chips without salsa (hey, it happened just once!), the rest of the Illinois offense is somewhat lacking: 13th in the Big Ten in scoring and third down conversions while allowing the most sacks in the conference. They also surrender the most rushing and total yards as well as points per game.

The question facing Maryland is: Will the team that let a second half lead at No. 4 Ohio State evaporate move on mentally to a foe they should beat? Also on the plate this week for Taulia Tagovailoa and company: making the program bowl-eligible for the third straight year with a win, something that hasn’t happened since 2001-03.

Presto’s Pick: Terps bring the chips AND salsa in a 38-17 win and punch their postseason ticket.

Virginia Tech (2-4, 1-2 ACC) vs Wake Forest (3-2, 0-2), 3:30 p.m., ACCN.

This homecoming offers up a reunion of sorts between the two head coaches: Brent Pry played as a defensive back under then-secondary coach Dave Clawson for the University at Buffalo in 1991-92.

Wake Forest comes to Blacksburg off two straight losses, but with the encouragement of coming within five points of Clemson in Death Valley. Returning to his home is sophomore starting quarterback Mitch Griffis. In taking over for the Notre Dame-bound Sam Hartman, the Ashburn, Virginia, native has completed 60% of his passes, but is averaging 157 yards (and under 10 per completion) against ACC foes. So far this year, Griffis has been sacked 22 times (most in the ACC) and he’ll face a Hokies pass rush that ranks 5th in the conference in sacks, while ranking second in stopping the pass.

Prepare for a defensive duel: while Wake hasn’t reached the 20-point mark since a Week 3 win over Old Dominion, the Hokies have been held to under 20 in four of their last five games. If memory serves, these two teams also played to a 6-3 double-overtime duel in 2014 (Wake Forest finished with more points but I think everybody lost that day).

Presto’s Pick: Hokies hang on for a 19-14 win.

Howard loses at Harvard, Georgetown wins at Lehigh, Richmond slips at Rhode Island.

Last Week: 8-0. Crediting the seasonal sunspots.

Season: 38-11.

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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