VU54TheGeezer's CAA Week 8 Preview:(43-14 overall on predictions for the season)
#35 Maine (2-1/3-3) at Rhode Island (0-4/1-6)
The Maine Black Bears are a hot team right now, playing some of the best ball in the CAA during their 3 game win streak. First year coach Joe Harasymiak had to open with not one, but two !-A teams on the road. They came very close to beating UConn and then had to travel to Toledo, another loss. They lost to JMU (just 31-20) but have won every game since. They average 21ppg and give up 28ppg. They don't hurt you on the ground but are getting stellar play from their SR/QB Dan Collins. JR/WR Jaleel Reed is his favorite target.
The URI Rams perhaps met one of their goals of the season by winning one game. They were 1-10 in 2015 and 1-11 in 2014. In 2012 the Rams went 0-11. Their lone win this year was over their in-state rival, Brown, 28-13. Now they set their sites on another goal - win one CAA game. So far, they have losses to Albany, UNH, Villanova and Stony Brook. With an offense that only scores 12ppg and gives up 35ppg. their first CAA win may not come this year,
Black Bears get their 4th win in-a-row with a 21-10 win in Kingston, R.I. Maine travels to W&M next week and URI travels to JMU.
#22/24 Stony Brook (3-0/4-2) at Delaware (0-3/2-4)
The Seawolves put up a head-scratcher of a game with just a 14-3 win over URI at home last week. Stony Brook has two signature wins beating Top 20 North Dakota and then #2 Richmond in a blow-out win. If they win just 3 of their next 5 (at UD, at UNH, W&M, Maine and at Albany), I think they get an at-large bid. As reflected in the Rhode Island game, they struggle to put up points in a game, averaging just 18ppg but hang their hats on their defense, giving up just 20ppg. They bring a top 6 rusher in the conference in JR/RB Stacey Bedell. They also have a top 6 receiver in JR/WR Ray Bolden. They went 1-3 last year on the road and this year are 1-1. They are facing a team in turmoil this week and it will be the 1st meeting between the two schools.
What a week down in Newark! The Hen A.D. fired head coach Dave Brock after 3 and a half years as the Blue Hen mentor going 19-22 in his tenure in Newark. He had to clean up a dirty program from former head coach K.C. Keeler, who stuffed his roster with 1-A transfers and some questionable characters. Maybe his downfall was pontificating that they were a playoff team this year (probably trying to buy some time and quiet the Hen football fans) and it backfired with their loss last week at W&M, after leading the whole game they gave up 21 points in the last quarter to fall to the Tribe. Taking over the reins as an interim coach will be Dennis Dottin-Carter, their co-defensive coordinator and the Hens first african-american head coach. Dottin-Carter has some of the best RBs assembled in the CAA but no passing offense and a team that constanly beat themselves to lose games. Will the new head coach pump some necessary life into the Hen game, will the players all come together and rally around the new coach or is their just too much to fix in such a short period? Makes it hard to predict a winner. This commentator wants to wish coach Brock good luck in his future coaching gigs as he is a good family man, a class guy and was a breath of fresh air after Keeler.
Coach Dottin-Carter will be set out to stop the bleeding as the Hens have lost 4 games in-a-row. Stony Brook needs the win to keep their postseason march going. Although they can struggle on the road, I'll go with the tried and true Seawolves for a 21-20 win down in Newark. SB travels to UNH next week and Delaware hosts Towson.
#6/7 Richmond (3-1/6-1) at Elon (1-2/2-4)
The Spiders totally dominated Villanova last week with a 23-0 take 'em behind the woodshed and beat them type of performance. But coach Rocco showed no class by putting his starters back in for the last 15 seconds and scoring a touchdown as time expired. Pay backs are hell coach and I hope you get one this year. Richmond proved themselves to be a powerful defensive machine and showcased their All-American receiver in Brian Brown and their 1st team All-CAA QB in Kyle Lauletta. A team that averages 30ppg and gives up 21.6 should have no problem with Elon, even with their two weeks of preparation for this matchup. The Spiders beat Elon last year, 27-14.
The Phoenix two wins came against D-2 Fayetteville St, and William & Mary. Their two CAA losses were to Villanova and UNH. The Phoenix average 15ppg and give up 24.3 a game. Any offensive strength that they have is no match for the Richmond defense and their 4th rated CAA best pass defense will certainly be challenged by Lauletta and Brown.
An easy pick although I think Richmond plays sloppy in the 1st half before they put Elon to rest in the final 30 minutes. 28-7 seems like a respectable pick for this game for the Spiders. Elon travels to Albany next week and Richmond hosts JMU in a battle for the automatic CAA berth in the playoffs and maybe a top 4 seed in two weeks.
#28/30 New Hampshire (3-1/4-3) at Towson (0-3/1-5)
UNH was getting blown out at home by JMU last week losing by 30 points with just 10 minutes to go. JMU started to look ahead at their bye week rest before the Cowell Stadium clock showed 00:00. UNH rallied for a respectable 42-39 loss (a rarity up in Durham, N.H.). OK, so how does the UNH playoff picture look? They can lose only one more game (at Towson, Stony Brook, Albany,at Maine) and still be considered in the playoff mix. That Stony Brook game could decide who gets an at-large bid. The UNH 4 wins came against Holy Cross, URI, W&M, and at Elon. Two of their three losses came in out-of-conference games, 1=A San Diego St. and a bad one point loss at Dartmouth, 22-21. The Wildcats average 25ppg and give up 23 a game.They have a balanced offense, a nice rushing defense but a 11th rated CAA pass defense. They have won 7 of the 10 games played against Towson.
Is it just me, or does Towson coach Rob Ambrose recruit platers that seem to quit on him and the team? This was supposed to be the 5th rated UNH vs the 6th rated (preseason) Towson Tigers with playoff ramifications. Towson has been a disappointment this year. OK, they lost their All-Conference RB, Darius Victor along with a few other injured players but I don't see a spark in the players' eyes. Their one common out-of-conference opponent (Dartmouth) has beaten both CAA teams with Towson losing last week, 20-17. A goal for Towson would be to get to 3 conference wins. Two should come against Elon in Week 10 and URI in Week 12. They must try to steal a win against UNH, at Delaware and home vs W&M. Let's see what the Tigers are made of.
This is almost a must win for UNH with respect to the playoffs and since they are playing more efficiently than Towson, let's give the UNH Wildcats a 28-24 win down in Towson, MD. Towson plays at Delaware next week and New Hampshire hosts Stony Brook.
#23/24 Albany (1-2/4-2) at #16/19 Villanova (3-1/5-2)
A huge, huge, huge game for both teams for the postseason. Let's look at Albany's resume. They opened up on the road playing at 1-A MAC Buffalo, who went 5-7 in 2015, and the Great Danes upset them, 22-16. This got Albany, who was picked for 11th in the CAA, votes for the Top 25. In Week 2 they crushed Rhode Island, 35-7. In Week 3 they finally broke into the Top 25 and defeated Holy Cross, 45-28. In Week 4 Albany moved up to #22/23 in the FCS nation and beat St. Francis, 20-9.Let's look at how those 4 teams are doing now. Buffalo is 1-5 with their only win coming against Army,23-20 in OT. Army right now is 4-2. Rhode Island is, of course, 1-6 with their only win vs Ivy Brown. Patriot Holy Cross is 3-4. Northeast Conference St. Francis is 4-3. Week 5 was their bye week. They used those two weeks well to prepare for Richmond in New York and lost in triple overtime, 36-30. Coach Gattuso knew that he could have stolen a victory against the Spiders but blamed it on the youth of his team and the inability of his team to play consistently for four quarters. With a 4-1 record and ranked #17/19 for Week 7, Albany traveled to Maine and lost to the Black Bears, 20-16. Last year the Great Danes went 1-4 on the road (stealing a road win at Delaware, 17-6). Against Villanova at home last year that youth was exposed and the Cats marched to a 37-0 road win. Albany has a little incentive to get even with the Cats this year and then add the fact that they are still very much in the playoff race adds even more incentive. Both Albany and Villanova have to get to the 7 win mark for the season and hope for an at-large selection to the playoffs. This game is critical for both teams. Albany will finish their season with: at Villanova, Elon, Delaware, at UNH and Stony Brook. I only see one definite win(Elon), two 50-50 potential wins (Cats & Hens), a definite loss (at UNH) and a probable loss at Stony Brook. However, if they get those two 50-50 wins (Cats & Hens) they could be in.
Now let's look at the team. They returned 11 starters on offense and 8 for defense for 2016. Their four best returning players are: SO/RB Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who is 2nd in the CAA averaging 105 yards rushing a game. The Cats have to keep him under 75. Another outstanding player is R-SO/LB Julian Cox. Another potential All-Conference player is R-SR/OL Kevin Malloy. The Albany O Line is ranked 8th in giving up sacks on their QB (14) and Villanaova is ranked next-to-last (16). Who controls the trenches will definitely play a part in the outcome of the game. Another potential All-Conference player is another LB in SR Neil Morrison. The defense for Albany gives up just 19.3 ppg for 2nd best in the conference. The Cats are first at 16.3, so look for a defensive battle on Saturday. Albany is 10th in pass defense while the Cats have moved up to #3. The problem, however, is how much and how accurate will Cat QB Adeyemi DaSilva be with his passes? Albany is 3rd in Red Zone defense and Villanova 4th. Albany has placed 3 players in the CAA Top 10 for interceptions - JR Michael Nicastro and Gray Mason tie Villanova's Rob Rolle for the most and Sr Rayshan Clark is right behind them. Obviously, whoever wins the turnover game probably wins the game. The Cats had 3 last week - all very costly. Special Teams will also be important to the outcome as Albany is 3rd in kickoff coverage to Villanova's 10th. Albany is better than Villanova in both kickoff return yardage and punt return yardage. I guess it could come down to which QB does better. If Zack Bednarczyk was playing this would be an easy pick but with DaSilva, who will have the chains put on him by the coaching staff (we have no option C), can he hit his receivers, not turn it over and not take sacks which kill drives? Look for Albany to blitz early and often.
On offense Albany averages 28 a game and Villanova 26. We are 3rd in rushing offense and Albany 5th. Albany's best pass receiver is another sophomore, Zee Roberson. I just don't know what to expect with DaSilva. Albany is the least penalized team in the CAA and Villanova continues to hurt themselves. Don't do it Cats! Javon White, Aaron Forbes and Matt Gudzak are litterally going to have to carry the Cat offense. To keep Albany honest, DaSilva is going to have to hit some receivers for some gains. A lot of question marks. Both teams are coming off disappointing losses, so who can rebound for the "W"?
Now the pick. Cat D has to stop Albany and give us good field position throughout the game. Can't turn it over, can't take big losses on sacks and can't get too many penalties. I thought we came up big with two must-wins - at home vs Towson and on the road vs Elon after their big upset of Top 10 William & Mary on the road. Our playoff hopes could rest on this game. Cats 14 Albany 13. Albany hosts Elon and Villanova has a bye and then travels up to Maine on November 5.