VU54TheGeezer is now 53-19 with his predictions this season. How does he view the match-ups this week?
William & Mary (2-4/4-5) at Towson (1-5/2-7)
The Tribe had gone 1-3 on the road this year before their game at Stony Brook last week. The week before W&M lost at home to Maine, 35-28. Then the Tribe hitched the wagon to head north against a Top 25 team. And guess what? They beat the Seawolves, 14-9. Now the Tribe has their sights on a winning season since they have been eliminated from playoff consideration. That would be something to build on in a very disappointing season. The Tribe beat Towson last year at home, 31-17. The Tribe is averaging 21ppg and giving up 24 a game.
Towson got their 1st win since September 10th after dropping 6 games in-a-row by beating Elon last week at home, 23-6. The Tigers are averaging 20ppg and give up 28 a game (2nd worst in the CAA). Towson is hoping to close the season with a 3 game win streak and if they beat the Tribe may get their wish by closing at Rhode Island next week.
As inconsistent as the Tribe have played this year, they should come out of Towson with a 24-17 win. That will set up their final game vs rival Richmond in Williamsburg and Towson heads up to Kingston, R.I.
Albany (2-4/5-4) at #21/23 New Hampshire (5-1/6-3)
No matter the outcome in this game and the next, Albany has had a successful season since they were picked for 11th in the CAA and then upset a 1-A in MAC Buffalo in week one. They also broke into the FCS Top 25 for 6 weeks something pretty good for a 3-8 team last year. However, to finish the season with a 3 game losing streak would certainly leave a bad taste in their mouth. Last week the Great Danes were beat by Delaware at home, 33-17, committing 5 turnovers in the loss. The Great Danes average 25ppg and on defense, 20ppg (2nd best in the CAA).
UNH started the season a little slow (1-2) but has recovered nicely and has won 5 of their last 6 games. Two weeks ago was a home win over Top 25 Stony Brook in Durham,N.H., 43-14. Last week was their bye week and they have their sights on another playoff bid, their 12th in-a-row. UNH averages 26ppg and gives up 20.3ppg. Last year at Albany, the Wildcats won, 24-14.
Since New Hampshire just about never suffers a home loss, let's give the UNH Wildcats a 28-17 win this weekend. UNH finishes at Maine and Albany hosts Stony Brook.
Rhode Island (0-6/1-8) at Elon (1-5/2-7)
No one wants to be the team that gives Rhode Island their only conference win in a season but it happened 2 years ago when the Rams beat Towson, 13-7 and last year when Delaware was shut out, 20-0. In the last five years the Rams have gone 3-8 in 2011, 0-11 in 2012, 3-9 in 2013, 1-11 in 2014 and 1-10 in 2015. They are down to their last two chances to get a win in the CAA. The Rams average 12.2ppg on offense (11th in the CAA) and 39.3 on defense (dead last by 12 points a game). Two weeks ago JMU hammered URI, 84-7. Last week was a bye week for the Rams. This will be the 1st meeting ever between Rhode Island and Elon.
The Phoenix got their only CAA win this year with their upset of Top 10 William & Mary in Williamsburg, 27-10. Since then Elon has lost 5 games in-a-row. Last week was a 23-6 loss at Towson for their 1st CAA win. The Phoenix average 11.8ppg (dead last in the CAA) and 26ppg on defense.
The Phoenix already gave one team their only CAA win (Towson) and they are not about to do it again. Although 'Nova Nation will be rooting for their former defensive coordinator and current Ram head coach, Jim Fleming, I have to think that the Phoenix come out with a 21-14 win in Carolina. The Rams finish at home vs Towson and Elon gets the pleasure of traveling to JMU. Another 70 point win for the Dukes?
#35/36 Maine (4-2/5-4) at #34 Stony Brook (4-2/5-4)
Both teams may have lost their chance at an at-large selection bid to the playoffs as Maine lost at home vs Villanova, 26-7, last week and Stony Brook lost at home vs William & Mary, 14-9. One thing is certain that if either team is to receive a bid then they must run the table in their last two games. Stony Brook has the advantage with their schedule. Although Maine SR/QB Dan Collins had a decent game vs Villanova with 235 passing yards, the Black Bears turned it over 4 times to Villanova's defense, went 0-5 in the Red Zone against the Cat D, while Villanova went 4-4 in the Red Zone on offense. Maine had won 5 games in-a-row before the Villanova loss and was getting playoff goose bumps up in Orono. Maine is averaging 22ppg and gives up 27 a game.
Stony Brook thought they almost had a bid locked up. OK, they were 5-3 but had a blowout win over Top 5 Richmond and a win over Top 20 North Dakota. Two of their last 3 games were at home and then a final game at Albany, which is running out of gas. They were hoping to go 3-0 and finish 8-3. William & Mary crashed the Stony Brook party and won in New York, 14-9 last weekend. Stony Brook shot themselves in the foot with 2 turnovers (in a low scoring game) and had 14 penalties dropped on them. They have a solid defense (20ppg) but struggle on offense to score points (17 a game). Stony Brook lost at Maine last year, 23-10.
This game is going to be a war. The loser is out of the playoffs, while the winner still has a flicker of hope with their playoff candle. Stony Brook has lost two games in-a-row but since they are at home (didn't matter last week vs W&M), let's give the Seawolves a 20-17 win over the Black Bears. Maine finishes at home vs New Hampshire and Stony Brook travels to Albany.
Delaware (2-4/4-5) at #8 Richmond (4-2/7-2)
The Blue Hens have seemed to find their mojo under their new interim head coach, Dennis Dottin-Carter, having won 2 in-a-row and starting to play like the playoff contender they were supposed to be. Their defense, which was a little dormant in the first-half of the season has forced 10 turnovers in their last two games (5 against Towson in a 20-6 win and 5 more against Albany last week in a 33-17 win in New York last week). Down 17-7 at Albany, the Hen defense got a pick 6 and JR/RB Wes Hills is finally healthy and finished with over 240 rushing yards. The Hen defense held Albany to just 10 yards in the 2nd half. Delaware, who is dead last in passing offense in the CAA, even went 7-7 in their passing game. Maybe not a good time to be playing Delaware.
Richmond hosted JMU last week, both Top 8 teams in the FCS Nation, and for 1st place on the line and probably the league's automatic bid. It was a game for the ages. Richmond JR/QB Kyle Lauletta threw for 435 yards and 5 TDs to 10 different receivers. Richmond only punted twice the whole game but constantly started their offense around the 20 yard line compared to JMU starting in the 4o yard line area. JMU never even punted the whole game. Richmond did take a 37-33 lead with 6:43 left in the game but JMU is an offensive juggernaut and scored 14 straight points before giving up a touchdown at the end of the game to win, 47-43 in Richmond. The game didn't disappoint (except for Spider fans). Both teams had won 5 in-a-row. The Spiders will still be going to the playoffs but lost that 1st round bye. Richmond averages 32ppg to Delaware's 24. The Spiders give up 23ppg to Delaware's 23. Richmond has the best passing offense in the league and Delaware is 2nd to JMU in rushing yardage.
The Hens would love to finish with a winning record but Richmond away is a major roadblock. The Spiders need this last home game for a win before traveling to their rival William & Mary. Richmond 28 and Delaware 17. Delaware hosts their rival Villanova next week.
#5/6 JMU (6-0/8-1) at #9/11 Villanova (5-1/7-2)
Let's look at what got JMU to #5 in the FCS Nation. In the preseason the Dukes were picked for 3rd in the CAA and Villanova 4th behind Richmond and William & Mary. In Week 1 JMU hosted Pioneer Morehead St. (3-6) thumped them 80-7. In Week 2 JMU hosted Northeast Central Connecticut St. (2-7) and bush wacked them, 56-21. In Week 3 JMU played their 1-A game against ACC UNC (7-3) and lost, 56-28. In Week 4 JMU traveled to Maine (5-4) and won, 31-20. In Week 5 the Dukes hosted Delaware (4-5) and won, 43-20. In Week 6 JMU hosted William & Mary (4-5) and won, 31-24. In Week 7 JMU did the impossible and won at New Hampshire (6-3), 42-39. Week 8 was their bye week. In Week 9 JMU hosted Rhode Island (1-8) and crushed them, 84-7. In Week 10 JMU played at Richmond (7-2) in a battle between two Top 8 FCS Nation teams and for 1st place in the CAA. JMU came from behind with less than 5 minutes to go and scored 14 consecutive points before giving up a TD on the last play of the game and left Richmond with a 47-43 win. JMU never punted the entire game and Richmond's defense could not get the JMU offense off the field. JMU's kick returns (a big worry for Villanova's Special Teams) gave the Dukes possession at the 35, the Richmond 48, the 37 and the Richmond 39 yard line. Three of those resulted in TDs. SR/RB Khalid Abdullah had 123 yards rushing and the JR/QB Bryan Schor had 91 yards rushing out of the 249 yards for the team. Schor also went 22-28 passing for 285 yards and 3 TDs. JMU did lose one fumble for a turnover in the game.
Let's look at the team and some statistics. They are an older team, very physical and hard-nosed. They take advantage of any mistake that you give them. (First key of the game - Cats can't turn it over and must win that statistic). Their Special Teams is very good and now for the next key of the game - we must contain their kick-return guys which ranks 1st in the CAA on punt returns. Villanova had one of their worse Special Teams game last week vs Maine giving up a 97 yard return for a TD and having several blocked kicks and fumbling a punt return on our 20 yard line. Our Special Teams has to out-play the JMU Special Teams. JMU has been executing their game plan very well every week. On offense they have excellent balance between the run and pass. They have so-o-o many weapons. Their offense is really elite. They average almost 50 points a game!!!!! Villanova averages 26ppg. They are number one in rushing offense in the CAA averaging 308 yards a game. The Cats average 210 a game. Defensively the Cats are tops in the CAA giving up only 15ppg and JMU, 26 a game. Their pass offense is ranked 3rd to Villanova's 7th. Villanova's pass defense is rated 5th and JMU is dead last in the CAA giving up 247 yards a game. Zach Bednarczyk must exploit that advantage. JMU ranks 1st in pass efficiency (Bryan Schor has been selected as the CAA Offensive Player of the Week 4 times and in his last two games (Richmond & URI) may be playing the best ball of the year. JMU is 2nd in turnover margin with a plus 12 and Villanova 4th at plus 7. It's no surprise that JMU is 1st in First Downs and 3rd-down conversions. Like I said, Richmond couldn't keep the JMU offense off the field. Villanova does lead the CAA in the number of sacks (22) and JMU is 6th (15). JMU is 1st in the least amount of sacks on their QB and Villanova is way down at 10th. Next critical key - can our O line outplay theirs and can we get to their QB with our D line? Penalties? Villanova is down at 8th but JMU has the most hankies dropped on them than any other CAA team. JMU is ranked 2nd in Red Zone Offense and Villanova, 5th. The Cats lead the league in Red Zone Defense and JMU is dead last. Next key - we must convert on our Red Zone opportunities. SR/RB Khalid Abdullah ranks 1st in yards gained (119 a game) and JR/RB Cardon Johnson is 5th with 78 a game. Villanova's SO/RB Aaron Forbes ranks 7th with a 71 yard average. Rob Rolle (JR/DB) is 1st in interceptions and JMU's SR/DB Raven Greene is 3rd. JR/QB Bryan Schor, a dual threat quarterback, is 1st in pass efficiency and 3rd with 213 yards a game and 18 TDs. Zach Bednarczyk is 8th with 136 yards a game and 8 TDs. However, Zach probably played the best game of his career last week at Maine going 23/31 for 326 passing yards and 3 TDs. He simply has to have a repeat performance of that. Receivers? No JMU player ranks in the top 10 of the CAA (they are a run team first) but last week, JR/TE Jonathan Klousterman had 5 catches for 53 yards, R-JR/WR Terrence Alls had 6 catches for 98 yards and Sr/WR Brandon Ravenel had 5 catches for 89 yards. Head coach Mike Houston is in his 1st year at JMU and replaced Everett Withers (a great recruiter but so-so coach), who left for 1-A Texas St. Houston was hired away from the Citadel after turning their program around and went to the 2nd round of the playoffs last year and finished with a 9-4 record. Houston is a much better X and O guy than Withers.
Now for the pick. You know that JMU is an elite team (maybe the best in FCS this year?) when they can go up to New Hampshire and win on the road and then win at Richmond. Their offense is outstanding but a concern for a deep run in the playoffs is their defense. Villanova has to be firing on all cylinders to have a chance for the upset. If JMU reaches the 30 point mark then the game is over. As good as we are, I think JMU is on a different level. JMU 31 and the Cats 21.
JMU hosts Elon next week and the Cats go to the Hen House.