The 2018 Patriot League football produced two tiers of teams. The first tier was Colgate, who had the best defense in FCS, gave a bowl team all they could handle (Army-West Point), and upset perennial FCS powerhouse James Madison before falling to the eventual FCS National Champions North Dakota State. The second tier was… the other six teams of the Patriot League, who all ended with records under .500. In 2019, can anybody get to the Colgate tier?
The Raiders graduate some significant players on their FCS-leading defense and their can-do offense, but loaded Colgate brings back more than enough to still be the frontrunner in the Patriot League in 2019. DL Nick Wheeler will ensure that Colgate’s defense will be tops in the Patriot, and that’s probably enough for back-to-back titles.
2. Holy Cross
If there’s a team that can catch the Raiders, it’s Holy Cross under second year coach Bob Chesney. The Crusaders won four in a row to end the 2018 season, and if they can survive a brutal out-of-conference schedule they could possibly get some momentum in time to set up a big matchup vs. Colgate in late October.
How close are the Hoyas? Behind the monstrous pass rush of DE Khristian Tate, the Georgetown defense had the Hoyas on the brink of a winning record last year. Like Holy Cross, they have a late-season game against Colgate that could have title implications.
Former Holy Cross head football coach Tom Gilmore takes over in South Bethlehem with a fairly young team and a plan to get the Mountain Hawks, who are only two years removed from an FCS Playoff appearance, after all, back to the upper echelon of the league. Led by S Sam McCloskey on defense, Gilmore’s impact might be felt most on that side of the ball.
The Rams under Joe Conlin‘s first season managed a 2-9 record, though their wins came against both Bucknell and Lehigh. The Rams defense got better as the season went along, but Fordham’s offense will need to awaken if they hope to get back to the top of the League.
Head coach John Garrett thinks the Leopards were “close” last year to turning things around. Can they? If Garrett is right, it will involve the offense, which has struggled the last few years, breaking out and taking control of games. Lafayette’s defense should be the typically tough Leopard defense, led by sophomore phenom Malik Hamm, but it’s the offense which will determine whether Lafayette will be contenders or pretenders.
Under new head coach Dave Cecchini, the Bison will be undergoing an offense revolution and rebuild. The former Lehigh assistant coach and Valparaiso head coach should have the Bison pointed in the right direction soon – the question is how many games will it take.
5 Big Conference Games to Watch
1. Colgate at Holy Cross 10/26
2. Colgate at Georgetown 11/2
3. Holy Cross at Fordham 11/16
4. Lehigh at Colgate 10/5
5. Lafayette at Lehgh 11/23, The 155th meeting of the Most Played College Football Rivalry
Ten Players to Watch from the Patriot League
Offensive Players to Watch
1. QB – Grant Breneman, junior, Colgate
2. RB – Domenick Cozier, senior, Holy Cross
3. WR – Jorge Portorreal, junior, Lehigh
4. TE – Nick Diaco, senior, Colgate
Chuck has been writing about Lehigh football since the dawn of the internet, or perhaps it only seems like it. He’s executive editor of the College Sports Journal and has also written a book, The Rivalry: How Two Schools Started the Most Played College Football Series.
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