College Sports Journal Northeast Conference Game Previews: Week of 8/31/2019

The NEC starts their 2019 football season as road warriors with the exception of Merrimack, who is not a full NEC member but is competing against mostly NEC squads. All of the games should be a challenge – with the exception of Merrimack, once again.

BYE: Duquesne, LIU

Conference Game of the Week:

Central Connecticut State (0-0) at Fordham (0-0)
When: Saturday August 31st, 6:00pm
Where: Jack Coffey Field, Bronx, NY
TV/Streaming: Patriot League Network

Central Connecticut State Blue Devils

The Blue Devils go into 2019 with an exciting, talented roster, but they are also minus their head coach from last season, Pete Rossomando, who took an assistant job at Rutgers. Assistant coach Ryan McCarthy was promoted to head guy and inherits CCSU’s terrific roster that came close to beating out Duquesne last season for the autobid. Last year’s starting QB Jake Dolegada is now looking like he has an excellent shot at sticking on the roster of the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

Key Player: Despite losing Dolegada, CCSU returns a ton of young talent from last year’s team, but the most impressive of the bunch might be FS D.J. Exilhomme. With 74 tackles last season – 46 solo – and 4 forced fumbles and 1 interception, the Malden, Massachusetts native led CCSU in tackles and brings energy to the Blue Devil defense. It’s going to be exciting to see what he brings in 2019 in the season opener.

Fordham Rams

The Rams first year under head coach Joe Conlin ended with a 2-9 record, but there was some promise hidden among the losses. The Rams led the Patriot League in passing with 200 yards per game and return a young team a year older. QB Tim DeMorat started 11 games behind an offensive line that also returns nearly everybody. The question is will it hit its boiling point?

Key Player: Fordham’s defense improved week to week during the 2018 season, and in large part was due to the development of sophomore LB Glenn Cunningham. The Glastonbury, Connecticut native – which is very close to CCSU’s campus in New Britain – registered an eye-popping 21 1/2 tackles for loss and led the Rams in tackles with 92. He will be looking to bring the punishment to CCSU’s offense.

Fearless Prediction: In this battle of intriguing, young teams, defense seems like it’s going to be the order of the day. CCSU’s talent will shine Saturday night and come up with the win, CCSU 24, Fordham 13.

Fearless predictions for the rest of the slate

Virginia Lynchburg (0-0) at Merrimack (0-0), Saturday August 31st, 6:00pm, Duane Stadium, North Andover, MA, NEC Front Row

Welcome to Division I Football, Warriors. Their first-ever game as a Division I program will not go against a Division I opponent, but rather a NCCAA opponent in VUL. VUL will put up about as much of a fight as you might expect – and then the Warriors should be able to empty their bench and deliver a lot of smiles to the home fans. Merrimack 52, VUL 6

Bryant (0-0) at Stony Brook (0-0), Thursday August 29th, 7:00pm, Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, Stony Brook, NY, FLO Sports

This game will feature two teams that should look very different than last season on both sides of the ball, so it will be an interesting test for both sides. In the end, Stony Brook should have barely enough to get by in their first game of the season. Stony Brook 24, Bryant 14

Robert Morris (0-0) at FBS Buffalo (0-0), Thursday August 29th, 7:00pm, UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY, ESPN+ (cable subscription required)

The Bulls, one of the better teams in the MAC, should have no problem steamrolling a Robert Morris team that is facing another rebuilding year. Buffalo 57, Robert Morris 10

Wagner (0-0) at FBS UConn (0-0), Thursday August 31, 7:00pm, Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT, ESPN3 (subscription required)

UConn’s defense, by all accounts, is poised to be a subpar unit in 2019. Can tiny Wagner take advantage and get into a shootout with the Huskies? FIU transfer QB Christian Alexander should have some familiarity with this team. It’s doubtful the Seahawks have the personnel to outlast the Huskies in the end, but it could be an entertaining, close game. UConn 49, Wagner 44.

Sacred Heart (0-0) at Maine (0-0), Friday September 1st, 6:00pm, Alfond Stadium, Orono, ME, FLO Football

The Pioneers are a title contender in the NEC and shouldn’t be taken lightly, however Maine, who made the FCS semifinals last year, is a bit of a tall order for a Sacred Heart victory. If Maine clamps down on Sacred Heart early, they should be able to push forward and win, though it won’t be a blowout. Maine 27, Sacred Heart 17

St. Francis (PA) (0-0) at Lehigh (0-0), Saturday August 31, 12:30pm, Murray Goodman Stadium, Bethlehem, PA, Service Electric 2, Patriot League Network

A battle between two young, rebuilding teams, the Red Flash no doubt remember last year’s season opener at Lehigh, where a blocked go-ahead FG attempt was one of many agonizing last-second losses for St. Francis. Look for another close game where the home team again comes out on top. Lehigh 24, St. Francis (PA) 10