Colonial Athletic Association Week 9 Preview

The CAA playoff picture is starting to come into focus. Unfortunately, it is only focused on two or three teams right now. Can teams like Elon or William & Mary pick up a big win over the next few weeks to thrust themselves into the picture?

Maine withstood a thirteen point fourth quarter comeback attempt by Albany to hold on for a 19-16 win. The Great Danes remain winless on the season.

Davis Cheek threw for 328 yards and two touchdowns as Elon outpaced New Hampshire at home 24-10. New Hampshire was held scoreless in the second half.

James Madison allowed just 109 yards of offense to Delaware and got five Ethan Ratke field goals in a 22-10 win in the rain at Delaware.

In what was supposed to be a prove it game for Rhode Island, the Rams never got going. Villanova picked up the easy 44-0 win, whitewashing the Rams.

Stony Brook jumped out to a 20-0 halftime advantage and never looked back, defeating Richmond 27-14.

William & Mary forced six Towson turnovers and allowed no points after halftime, cruising to a 40-14 win at home.

Stony Brook is off this week. There are five conference matchups and one non conference game this week. The weather could be an issue in some games.  

Last Week: 6-0, Season: 48-10

Dixie State (Independent/WAC) at Delaware, Saturday October 30, 1:00pm, FloSports

Dixie State is in its first full season in the FCS. They are 0-7 but that doesn’t tell the full story. The Trailblazers have challenged themselves with a tough schedule including playing games against multiple top 25 programs. Theyre getting valuable experience that wont pay off this season, but it may in the future.

Delaware, again playing without Nolan Henderson, continues to struggle. Last week may have been rock bottom as they gained only 109 total yards against James Madison. 76 of those yards came on their one touchdown drive and another 29 came on their opening field goal drive. They gained four yards on the rest of those drives. The Blue Hens have not gotten solid play from Zach Gwynn or Anthony Paoletti in the absence of Nolan Henderson. Their offensive output per game has dropped to just 296 yards. The missing quarterback has been a perpetual issue for Delaware for years and its raring its ugly head again. They’ve only scored 15 touchdowns all season. The defense can keep them in games, but the offense isn’t performing nearly well enough to lead to wins.

Luckily for Delaware, they have a much lesser opponent coming in this weekend. This looks like it could be their last win of the season if Henderson doesn’t return.

Fearless Prediction: Delaware 23, Dixie State 10

Maine at #24 Rhode Island Saturday October 30, 1:00pm, FloSports

Maine has won two straight games after starting the season 1-4.  The loss of Joe Fagnano has been tough to overcome but Derek Robertson is learning on the fly. He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot with only one interception on the season. If he can get the accuracy up, Maine will have a shot to stay in games. Last week they held on for a three point win over Albany in a game where they only gained 249 yards total. The Black Bears don’t get much pressure on the opponents with just a single sack and 11 tackles for loss on the season. That’s led to them allowing 34 points per game. That wont get it done in a conference like the CAA.

Rhode Island started the season 5-0 but they’ve lost the last two including an extremely poor result last week in a 44-0 loss to Villanova. Rhody gained just 165 yards and allowed 511 last week. It’s the type of game that you throw away, forget and move on to the next one. We wondered if the hot start was a result of a weaker schedule and it looks like it may have been. The Rams’ overall numbers are trending toward average, and they are heading toward the playoff bubble. They will most likely be favored in most games the rest of the way in CAA play and they will have a chance to beat an FBS opponent when they play Massachusetts. This week is a must win for Rhode Island.

Rhode Island returns home to take on a conference rival. This is a game they have to have, and a game they’ll get.

Fearless Prediction: Rhode Island 27, Maine 24

Richmond at New Hampshire Saturday October 30, 1:00pm, FloSports

Richmond has lost five straight games which coincides with the injury to quarterback Joe Mancuso. He returned last week but the rust was apparent as he took two sacks and threw two interceptions. The Spiders held CAA leading rusher Ty Son Lawson to just 51 yards. Lawson was well over 100 yards a game and the strong Spider defense frustrated him all day. Richmond holds opponents to under 20 points and 336 yards per game. But the offense doesn’t support them, scoring just 18.6 points and gaining 328 yards. Mancuso’s injury has been a big reason for that. He will look to get back on track against another good defense this week against New Hampshire.

New Hampshire has lost four straight games after starting the season with three straight wins. The lack of a seasoned quarterback is catching up with the Wildcats. That seems to be a theme in the CAA this season. A usually strong defense has been uncharacteristically leaky allowing 30 points per game. The Wildcats have a strong secondary that can take the ball away but they are allowing 292 yards through the air a game. They also have 20 sacks on the season. It doesn’t seem like the defense should be as bad as it has been. Bret Edwards has done a nice job protecting the ball with only four turnovers, but they aren’t moving the ball down the field consistently enough.

Something has to give here. Someone’s losing streak has to end this week. Richmond has a better defense, New Hampshire is at home. This is a pickem. Ill take the Spiders

Fearless Prediction: Richmond 17, New Hampshire 14

William & Mary at #4 Villanova Saturday October 30, 1:00pm, FloSports

William & Mary forced six turnovers in their big win over Towson last weekend. The Tribe are tops in the CAA and 13th in the FCS in rushing offense ran for 349 yards in the game last week.  This has quietly been a good team all season, but they don’t have a signature win. They will get their chance in the home stretch, finishing against Villanova, Delaware, James Madison and Richmond. Three wins definitely gets them in the playoffs. Two puts them on the bubble if the losses are to Villanova and James Madison. QB Darius Wilson is playing well enough for consideration as CAA Rookie of the year and he had his best game last weekend. He keeps getting better and that is good news for the Tribe. They can be beaten through the air, but they also have nine interceptions on the year.

Villanova just keeps rolling in the CAA. They made a statement on both sides of the ball last week in a 44-0 drubbing of Rhode Island. Not only does Villanova look like the best team in the CAA, they look like one of the championship contenders in the FCS. The Wildcats allow just 74 yards per game on the ground so this will be a strength on strength matchup. Daniel Smith has bounced back from a rough Spring to have a nice fall season to this point. He has 1394 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. And most importantly, he has stayed healthy. The Wildcats are aggressive on defense and have 49 tackles for loss.

Who will win out? William & Mary’s run offense or Villanova’s run defense? Theres a reason Villanova is #4 in the country. Take the Wildcats.

Fearless Prediction: Villanova 37, William & Mary 17

Albany at Towson, Saturday October 30, 2:00pm, FloSports

Albany enters the week 0-7 on the season. In every FCS game except one, the Great Danes have been within one score, but unable to close out the game with points to win. The offense is anemic, scoring 15.6 points per game and gaining just 262 yards. Its been a struggle to move the ball all season. The lone offensive bright spot has been Karl Mofor who accounts for 93 yards per game total and has scored team’s 12 offensive touchdowns. The defense isn’t terrible, but they haven’t been able to hold the opponent down enough to get a win. Jared Verse has 8.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks while Anthony Lang has added another 8 tackles for loss.

Towson followed up their big win over Rhode Island with a dud in a 40-14 loss to William & Mary. Chris Ferguson and Jeff Miller combined to throw four interceptions and took three sacks against the Tribe. The Tigers struggle to run they ball. They average just 2.7 yards per carry and 70 yards per game which puts them in a lot of third and 7 plus which puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They do throw for 210 yards per game and have 9 touchdowns vs 6 interceptions. But there is not enough consistency in the offense against the better teams. A Rob Ambrose coached team is always solid defensively and this version is no different. They have 16 sacks on the year.

Albany will look to get in the win column. But Towson will have other ideas and pick up the home win.

Fearless Prediction: Towson 20, Albany 14

Elon at #5 James Madison, Saturday October 30, 2:00pm, FloSports

Elon is 4-3, 3-1 entering play this week. They have playoff hopes but they are pretty thin. An opening week loss to Wofford may doom them into needing to win out against a really tough schedule to even make the playoffs. But Davis Cheek has been doing his job. The senior quarterback leads the CAA in passing with 2047 yards. He has 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Cheek has played in every game this year. The last time he set foot in Harrisonburg he helped end JMUs long home win streak and he will be looking to do that gain. The difference this week versus 2018 are many, mainly Curt Cignetti on the opposite sideline this week and a weaker run game than they had in 2018.

James Madison enters play this week with the best defense in the FCS, allowing just 222 yards per game. Their pass defense is #11 and their rush defense is #3. Its hard to move the ball on the Dukes who allowed just 109 total yards last week to Delaware a week after holding Richmond to 188. The Dukes have 59 tackles for loss and 22 sacks led by Isaak Ukwu and Bryce Carter. Offensively the Dukes have been sputtering in the red zone, leading to 9 Ethan Ratke field goals over the last two games. A young offensive line will get a boost with senior All-American Left Tackle Liam Fornadel returning to the lineup. Lets see if that sparks the run game that still averages over 180 yards per game.  

Elon always gets up for this game. But the Dukes will be ready to fire on all cylinders. Take James Madison.

Fearless Prediction: James Madison 37, Elon 14