By Preston Adams, FCS Fans Nation Contributor
We are finally at that time of year when almost every game in the CAA has playoff implications, and many of the match ups feature at least one team ranked in the top 25. This week the CAA has 3 match ups with teams that are nationally ranked, and one of those match ups is between top 10 foes. What’s the crazy thing? That top 10 matchup might not be the most significant when the season comes to an end.
Elon at James Madison
This will be a true measuring stick for both the Phoenix and the Dukes. After both teams have rolled through their FCS schedule after losing FBS openers, they’ll finally square off at 1:30 EST for JMU’s Family Weekend. Family weekend is usually a more docile crowd, which I guess bodes well for Elon, but since this will be JMU’s first of many potential conference title challengers, I expect the Dukes will be up for this kickoff. Elon will bring in a potent rushing attack,a much improved quarterback in Davis Cheek, and a defense that is not likely to allow the Dukes to run up and down the field like they have on other FCS opponents. That being said, the Dukes are undefeated at home under Houston, have a potent three headed running attack of their own, and a quarterback in Ben Denucci that is just as lethal with his legs as he is with his arm. Oh, and there’s also the small note that Jimmy Moreland, a cornerback for JMU, has outscored JMU FCS opponents 18-17 with 3 pick 6’s in his last 3 games. I’m not expecting a blowout of any kind, but I do expect the JMU defense to continue their trend of not allowing FCS teams to score much more than 20 points, if that, and JMU is likely to blow things open in the 3rd quarter like they did against in state rivals William & Mary and Richmond. I leave slight room for Elon perhaps pulling an upset, but I believe a JMU blowout is the more likely outcome of those two, and if JMU blows out Elon, good luck to the rest of the CAA.
Delaware at Richmond
This is gonna be one of those classic CAA match ups with two teams that really need to find their way, which is not exactly what we were expecting from the Rocco bowl. A lot of people had Delaware as potential sleepers in the conference in preseason, but after dropping their first game to Rhode Island at home, some of that preseason shine has rubbed off. I don’t think anyone had them going into NDSU pulling off and upset after that, especially given the underwhelming quarterback play we have seen from the Blue Hens so far. As for Richmond, this might be a game for which they are playing for their head coaches job. Yes, the Spiders have had two very key injuries to offensive weapons, but with the way their season has started with 2 CAA losses and an underwhelming win at St. Francis (PA), there’s little to no wiggle room for bad performances. Plus, as much as the Spiders have cut back on their support for their football program, even their boosters are not likely to stomach the at home embarrassment they witnessed last weekend at the hands of arch rival JMU. Delaware will try to get back on playoff track with their still very good defense, and could to a lot of good notching their first CAA win. Richmond, will be playing for pride and potentially their coach’s job, because they will not be making the playoffs this year.
Villanova at Maine
This might surprise you all, but if Villanova doesn’t win this game, their path to the playoff will become exceedingly difficult, if not next to impossible. Losing this game they would fall to 0-3 in conference after last weeks loss to Stony Brook and a loss earlier in the season to Towson. What should worry the Wildcat fans about those losses is the fact that their usually stingy defense looked flimsy at best for each. When’s the last time you saw a NOVA defense blow a 21 point lead? When’s the last time an FCS/CAA foe took it to their defense like Towson did? Villanova needs to win this game badly, because the week after, they have JMU coming to Philly, and upset minded UNH and Richmond follow. As for Maine, they have a little more wiggle room, but their early season shine is wearing off as well with UNH completely imploding, a recent loss to an FBS foe (albeit a close game with great defensive game) and a loss on the road to Yale with Maine missing their starting quarterback. While that Yale team is going to be competing with Harvard and Princeton for the Ivy League title, that is still a game most people would have thought Maine’s defense would be able to keep it close, as opposed to a 3 score defeat. I find this to be the most intriguing matchup because both teams started the season on such high notes, and have since then really come back to earth. The loser of this game will not make the playoffs. Mark my words.
Stony Brook at Towson
It is hard to believe that this game is flying under the radar. Other than JMU and Elon that have already been mentioned, this matchup will be what will potentially decide who finishes second or third in the conference. Stony Brook quarterback Joe Carbone finally woke up and led his seawolves to 26 unanswered points as they topped NOVA at home last weekend. They are 2-0 in conference with a solid win over a down Richmond team and look to state their claim as the true challengers to JMU for the conference title (for real this time). They’ve got the rushing attack to do so, and a solid defense as well. Towson on the other hand has looked like a team on fire for the 50th anniversary of their football program. Tom Flacco (or as I like to affectionately call him Lil Flacco) has been a man on a tear waking up this once dormant Tiger offense. His dynamic dual threat play has the tigers rolling through the FCS. With a win, the Tigers would be favored to start off conference play at 4-0 with games against William & Mary and a stubborn, but underwhelming Albany to follow. Stony Brook follows up with UNH and Rhode Island, both of which are games the Seawolves should not take lightly.
UNH will be looking to finally notch a win this year as they play Holy Cross. This is a game the Wildcats surprisingly lost last year in humiliating fashion though, so nothing is a given. If they can’t win this game, they might go longing for a victory period this year. Rhode Island will be playing Brown for the Governor’s Cup. This is a game Rhody should win, especially if they get their dynamic starting quarterback Jujuan Lawson back in the line up. William & Mary and Albany will be playing for who wants to finish second to last most likely. It’s painful for me to say this, but Jimmye Laycock’s final year with the Tribe looks to be going out with a little less flair than I think even the most vocal Tribe haters (but who really hates W&M come on now) would say is sad.
And with that, I’ll leave you with my CAA power rankings through week 6.
William & Mary