Presto’s Picks: Terps, Hokies, Mids and Cavaliers hope to get full on Thanksgiving

The final games of college football’s regular season (I know Army-Navy is technically a regular season matchup, but it serves as an appendix) are fittingly played during the Thanksgiving weekend.

As we load up our plates this Thursday (next to leaving the kiddie table; the rite of passage on this holiday was being able to dish up your own dinner), we get to choose from the traditional (turkey is the old-school rivalry that is good when it’s juicy but dry when both teams are sub-. 500 like Indiana-Purdue), the delicious (Ohio State-Michigan is the sweet potato casserole that delivers even when the dish doesn’t have an inch of brown sugar or the matchup features two unbeaten teams), the mandatory (Georgia-Georgia Tech and Clemson-South Carolina are the rarely-tasty greens that must make their way to the plate for you to merit dessert), and the manufactured (Penn State-Michigan State has never felt like a final game of the season, just like green bean casserole feels forced upon us).

There’s always stuffing on the schedule (look at Friday’s slate that features eight games involving ranked teams) with often multiple cranberry dishes to make fun of (Ole Miss-Mississippi State often delivers supreme unintentional comedy like a player being whistled for mimicking a dog urinating in the end zone). Dig in.

Meanwhile, FCS has already moved on to the first round of their 24-team tournament (I guess that makes them our Canadian friends) … and by the way, Presto’s Picks has Richmond beating North Carolina Central Saturday afternoon.

Big Ten Worst Update:

Leave it to Iowa to end our fun with two straight wins. The offensively-challenged Hawkeyes dusted the rest of the West Division (our version of peas that everyone in their right mind avoids while unlucky kids/fan bases get stuck with “enjoying”) on their way to a date with Ohio State or Michigan. Get the Tums ready for those games this weekend.

Saturday’s Games:

Navy (5-5, 4-3 AAC) at SMU (9-2, 7-0), noon, ESPN2.

Both teams have plenty to play for on different fronts: while the Midshipmen clinch a bowl berth in head coach Brian Newberry’s first season at the helm with a victory, a Mustangs win wraps up a spot in the AAC Championship game (they can also advance with a UTSA loss to Tulane) before leaving for the ACC next year.

SMU has dominated defensively this fall, leading the conference in passing and total defense while also allowing the fewest points and third-down conversions. They’re sadly slacking in sacks and stopping the run (ranking second in both categories). And while it’s Navy that became the first FBS team to post three shutouts on the season last Saturday, the likes of Wagner, Charlotte and East Carolina are no SMU, which happens to lead the AAC by scoring 40.3 points per game.

Can the Mids contain Mustangs quarterback Preston (no relation) Stone? The sophomore has thrown 25 touchdown passes this year while tossing just one interception since the end of September.

Presto’s Pick: Midshipmen sink in a 38-13 stampede.

Maryland (6-5, 3-5 Big Ten) at Rutgers (6-5, 3-5), 3:30 p.m., BTN.

One final turn for the Terps and Scarlet Knights as the league’s “new kids on the block,” in the words of head coach Mike Locksley (always saw him as more of a New Edition guy). Both schools have been hanging tough while trying to show the right stuff, as they’ve built their programs step by step in a division filled with blue bloods. That’s for the 40-55 demographic. For those over 55 years old, this is the final game for the “new kids in town” as next year both schools will be asked where they’ve been lately as there will be four “new kids in town.” I don’t want to hear it.

Both teams have dealt with second half of the season slides against conference competition, making one want to bill this as the matchup of the “resistible force against the movable object.” The Scarlet Knights are 0-3 in November while scoring a total of 22 points this month but the Terrapins have allowed over 30 points in five of six games played since the end of September. And while the Rutgers defense has had its moments this fall, they rank last in the Big Ten with 18 sacks.

If the Terps can keep Taulia Tagovailoa upright, and they can limit mistakes unlike the last month and a half, Maryland will be well on its way to securing a third straight winning season for the first time since 2001-03.

Presto’s Pick: Terrapins triumph, 24-14.

Virginia Tech (5-6, 4-3 ACC) at Virginia (3-8, 2-5), 3:30 p.m., ACCN.

The Commonwealth Cup has an added twist with the Hokies fighting for bowl eligibility, and there’s cause for confidence as they won must-games against the Cavaliers to make the postseason five times from 2012-21.

Virginia fans take hope in that the home team has won three of the last four games. They can also take heed in knowing that they’ve lost 17 of the last 18 games in the series. Both teams enter this week after one-possession games: the Hokies allowed touchdowns on five straight possessions in their loss to NC State, while the Cavaliers held off a fourth-quarter rally to defeat Duke.

Saturday will be a nice showcase for two quarterbacks who weren’t expected to start at the beginning of the year, and both can hurt you with their wheels as well as their arms. Pass pressure may be pivotal, as Virginia ranks last in the ACC with 11 sacks while Virginia Tech tops the conference with 32.

Kippy and Buffy have enjoyed their season-long celebration of Virginia wines, and they wrap up the regular season by revisiting their first stop in the Commonwealth. Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint is releasing the 2019 Tannat, which according to the winery website is “full-bodied, dense, and concentrated with black fruit flavors and a silky-smooth finish.” Perfect for Brie and Borgonzola on Captain’s Wafers.

Presto’s Pick: A full-bodied Hokies pass rush is a little too dense and concentrated for Anthony Colandrea, and the Cavaliers come up short 37-21.

James Madison (10-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) at Coastal Carolina (7-4, 5-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2.

The Dukes’ dream of an unbeaten season may have ended in overtime last weekend, but now they sit and watch five-win teams try to punch postseason tickets (Buffalo reached eligibility Tuesday night).

Despite the NCAA denying the school’s appeal to qualify for a bowl, there’s a tiny window of opportunity that might exist if there aren’t enough schools with the embarrassingly low minimum requirement of six wins. If 11 of 22 teams that are 5-6 lose between Thanksgiving night and Saturday evening, there won’t be enough schools that reached that bar, potentially making room for one of 13 schools that have 10 wins at this time (JMU).

The Chanticleers are playing for a share of the Sun Belt North Division and as they own the tiebreaker with Appalachian State they advance to the Championship Game with a victory Saturday. Coastal had won five straight before last Saturday’s loss to Army, and one doesn’t think the Dukes’ 11th best in the conference ground game will try to duplicate the 365 yards the Black Knights ran for.

Can Jordan McCloud put the offense on his back again? The quarterback has led the team in rushing three times this fall.

Presto’s Pick: Dukes bounce back to claim the real division championship, 35-24.

Last Week: 5-4.

Season: 71-33.

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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