2021 CSJ CAA Football Spring Season Preview

We are about to embark on an FCS season like no other in previous history.

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the FCS chose to move its season and playoffs from the Fall of 2020 to the Spring of 2021. Although many teams across the South opted to play a partial or full schedule, none of the teams in the CAA chose to play; though in some cases, not for a lack of trying.

This Spring, CAA teams will play six conference games and can schedule up to two non conference games. There will only be 11 of the 12 teams taking the field as Towson has opted out of the Spring season. So for these eleven teams, lets take an early look at the Spring product.

What does the schedule look like?

The teams are split into two divisions. The seven team North includes Delaware, Villanova, Rhode Island, Stony Brook, Albany, New Hampshire and Maine. The teams in the North will all play each other once.

CAA North

PosTeamWLConf WConf LPFPAStreak
1303010324W3
221217882L1
321217390W2
411115353L1
513137596L3
613135689W1
701012024L1

The South Division is four teams consisting of James Madison, Elon, Richmond and William & Mary. 

CAA South

PosTeamWLConf WConf LPFPAStreak
130309045W3
2402014643W2
312125569L1
41504104185L4

The teams in the South will play each other in home and home contests. Additionally, James Madison, Delaware, Elon and Rhode Island all have at least one non conference game included in their schedule as well. The CAA portion of the schedule kicks off March 6 and runs through April 17.

Why the divisional imbalance?

The split between the two divisions is based strictly on geography. Had Towson not opted out, the CAA could have put Towson and Delaware in the South or opted to go with three – four team divisions with home and homes. But with 11 teams, the CAA chose to go 7 and 4 based on proximity of teams to limit travel.

A quick blurb on each team playing in the Spring

Albany – Can the Great Danes build on the success they found in 2019? Jeff Undercuffler was the best Freshman quarterback in the FCS not named Trey Lance. Was 2019 a one time thing, or is Greg Gattuso building something?

Delaware – Can the Blue Hens find a quarterback to help return them to the top of the CAA and FCS? Delaware will always have a good defense. If Nolan Henderson can be the guy and improve over 2019, Delaware may be a contender.

Elon -Tony Trisciani is continuing to build on the foundation set by Curt Cignetti. Davis Cheek is still one of the top quarterbacks in the CAA. But do they have enough weapons to compete with James Madison in the South Division?

James Madison – The Dukes expectations always include a CAA championship, if not a FCS National Championship. Will they be able to smoothly replace all the starters they lost from the 2019 runner up team? Most importantly, who plays quarterback? With a stellar defense anchored by DT Mike Greene, expect the Dukes to run through the South, with their ultimate goal of an FCS National Championship potentially met after the regular season.

Maine – A couple seasons removed from a CAA title, the Black Bears have seen coaches and players depart since then. QB Joe Fagnano played well as a freshman, so there is optimism in Orono.

New Hampshire – The feel-good story of the spring will be legendary head coach Sean McDonnell returning to the sideline. This team has playoff aspirations, and the defense may be the best in the CAA. The key will be whether they can score enough points to keep up with the best teams in the North, and with guys like RB Dylan Laube, signs point to “yes”.

New Hampshire

DateEventVenueMatch Day
Albany 24, New Hampshire 20
Wildcat Stadium
Durham, NH

Rhode Island – The Rams are most likely slated for the bottom of the league again, unfortunately. They have had trouble finding any consistency on either side of the ball.

Richmond – The Spiders were once a perennial contender in the CAA, but since then the defense has regressed and the play at the quarterback position has been less than ideal since Kyle Lauletta left. Having said that, QB Joe Mancuso looks like he could be the answer.

Stony Brook – Chuck Priore will always have a tough defense for opposing offenses to play against. Tyquel Fields has shown flashes in his time as a starter. If the senior signal caller gets production from young receivers, the Sea Wolves could challenge in the North.

Villanova – Going into the fall season, this was the team many thought could challenge James Madison for the CAA title. Between then and now, the Wildcats have seen many transfers at key spots on the roster. Daniel Smith is still the best quarterback in the conference, and should keep the Wildcats relevant. But will it be enough to win the North?

Villanova – 2020 Season

William & Mary – Mike London is building something in Williamsburg, but the Tribe is probably a season or two away from contending. The Spring will be a good opportunity for some young guys to get some reps and make some noise to build momentum for the fall.

Who wins the North?

Lets start with the more difficult division to call for the CAA. Outside of Rhode Island, a case can be made for the other six teams to win this division. But to me, there are three teams who I think have the best chance to win the North – Villanova, New Hampshire and Albany. This is a tough one to call. All three teams have strengths to exploit opponents and all three have some questions. Most people will probably pick Villanova, but I believe New Hampshire will win the North.

Who wins the South?

This one is a little easier to call. Until proven otherwise, James Madison is the team to beat. With these teams playing home and home, it will be a little more intriguing as teams meet for the second time.  That’s where coaching and adjustments will really be seen. Elon could challenge the Dukes when they play them at home, but look for James Madison to finish the CAA slate unbeaten.

How many CAA teams make the playoffs?

The Spring season will see a 16 team playoff bracket rather than the normal 24. With 11 automatic bids, there are only five at large bids available. So don’t look for the CAA to get 4 or 5 bids like they normally do. There is probably only one at large available for a CAA team after the auto bid; maybe two. James Madison will most likely get the automatic bid, assuming they navigate their conference schedule. The North teams will beat each other, and no one will emerge unscathed. But New Hampshire seems the most likely to make the playoffs while Villanova will be the first team just on the outside looking in in a smaller field than usual.

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