Is there another 12 week span during the course of the year that goes by as fast as football season? It’s hard to believe but as Jim Morrison once said “This is the End; My only Friend, The End”. Well, it’s the end for everyone not named Colgate. Following their regular season finale against Army, the Raiders can focus on the FCS playoff bracket that’s set to be released Sunday morning. For everyone else in the Patriot League, once Saturday evening arrives it will be about reflecting upon what went right and what went wrong in 2018 (a whole lot for most) and then looking towards the 2019 season.
Here’s three storylines to follow as the regular season comes to an end.
1. Can Colgate make a deep playoff run?
There’s no escaping the fact that Colgate has dominated an easy schedule. The Army game will be a solid indication of where the Raider’s chips stack up relative to elite FCS competition. A seed/bye and avoiding a trip to North Dakota State would be a good start to a potential long playoff run. The last time Colgate garnered a seed and home playoff game they ended up in the National Title Game.
2. Georgetown’s joy of six
The second best story of 2018, perhaps best if you ask those in our nation’s capital, is Georgetown’s run to respectability. Can they beat Holy Cross to notch only their second winning season in the Patriot League era? It would also secure the program’s first ever solo second place finish in the league standings. The Patriot League as a whole would benefit by having a second team finish with a winning record. Although, those in Worcester, MA would vehemently disagree.
3. Will the “coaching carousel” make a stop?
Following the 2017 season it made two stops, Worcester (Holy Cross) and The Bronx (Fordham). As the 2018 season is set to conclude there’s a chance for at least one shakeup. Lehigh’s Andy Coen is only a few wins shy of becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach yet his program his really struggled to gain traction nationally in recent years. The Mountain Hawk defense has been among the worst in FCS since the start of the 2013 season. Bucknell’s Joe Susan might be sweating too as the 2018 season nears its conclusion. Since Susan led the Bison to 3 winning seasons in a 4 years stretch (’11, ’13, ’14) it’s been a steady decline. The prospects heading into 2019 don’t seem too encouraging either. Colgate’s Dan Hunt will certainly have some “feelers” sent his way after leading the Raiders to back-2-back Patriot League Titles. His stock may never be higher than it is right now.
Fordham (1-9, 1-4) at Bucknell (1-9, 1-4) 1:30 P.M. Christy Matthewson Stadium Lewisburg, PA
Live Streaming: Patriot League Network
The Pick: In the rare, and some would say unfortunate event a pair of one win teams meet in the final week the most either fan base can hope for is a committed effort from all involed. This will be the first time since 1995 (1-9 Holy Cross vs 0-10 Colgate) that two PL teams with less than 3 combined wins face off in the season finale. For the traveling Rams, this is fairly uncharted territory. While Fordham clearly suffered through a disappointing 2017 campaign in Chase Edmond’s senior season, injuries (including Edmonds) really put a limit on the team’s ceiling. While the Rams entered 2018 with a new coaching staff, they possessed a 2-deep loaded with experience. On paper, the offense had the potential to be one of the most explosive units in the league. Then the season started and the “O” turned out to be among of the very worst in FCS (260.5 ypg, 120th out of 124). That will not sit well during the offseason with the offensive minded Coach Conlin. Bucknell’s struggles were a little easier to see coming the moment RB Chad Freshnock went down with an injury in fall camp. The bruising RB was going to be the focal point of the Bison offense given the inexperience at the other skill positions. The defense (29.4 ppg allowed, 5th in PL) hasn’t been able to overcome the loss of several key players from the 2017 which has created the perfect storm. Win or lose the 11th game, Bucknell will head into the offseason with a ton of questions. Many of which may be difficult to answer. Overall, the Bison program could really use a healthy dose of mojo to turn the tide.
Despite the identical records, Fordham has the more talented team. The Rams have the wide receivers in Longi and Caddle capable of making big plays against the Patriot League’s worst pass defense, (227.1 ypg allowed). Bucknell will need to get pressure on Ram quarterback Tim DeMorat (168 ypg, 11 TD 6 INT) in order to slow down the Fordham offense. Outside of the Lehigh game, Fordham hasn’t been able to run all season (50 ypg, 7th in PL). The Bison’s fate on offense rests in the hands of freshman QB Tarrin Earle (113 ypg 2 TD 2 INT) for the third straight week. Bucknell will need to create some turnovers and win the field position battle to come out on top.
Fordham 24 Bucknell 13
#6 Colgate (9-0, 6-0) at Army (8-2) 12 P.M. Michie Stadium West Point, NY
Live Television: CBS Sportsnetwork
The Pick: Colgate looks to put one final exclamation point on what has been a historic 2018 regular season when they take on the formidable 8 win Black Knights Saturday afternoon. A Colgate win would finish off the program’s first undefeated regular season since 2003. That year, Colgate opened the season with a win against FBS (like Army) Buffalo and ended it in the National Title game. The 2003 victory against the Bulls remains Colgate’s most recent FBS scalp. Army’s last lost loss against a Patriot League opponent came against Fordham in 2014. In order for ‘Gate to defeat Army in their own trench the defense must remain a constant. QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. and the Black Knight triple-option offense (307.2 2nd in FBS) will be the stiffest test the great Raider “D” (3.2 ppg allowed & 56.7 rush ypg allowed, both 1st in FCS) has faced all season. The stats indicate that Colgate has feasted on a plethora of anemic FCS offenses. Now they get their opportunity to face one of the most efficient, and difficult to defend, offenses in all of Division 1. The ‘Gate “O” will need a big game from the OL and James Holland Jr. (899 yards 11 TD) in order to grind out yards and limit the amount of time Army possesses the ball. A win would be a HUGE feather in the Raider’s cap with the FCS Playoff Selection Show set for Sunday morning.
An undermanned Lafayette team gave Army a headache last weekend by unleashing a spirited effort on defense. It also helped that Army made several uncharacteristic mistakes during the course of the game. Black Knight Head Coach Jeff Monken should have no issue getting his squad focused and prepared with the Patriot League’s best team on tap. Colgate needs Grant Breneman (shoulder) to play if they’re going to have a legitimate chance to win. Senior backup Sage Attwood made things work against Lehigh last week but lacks Breneman’s passing ability that will be needed against a team of Army’s caliber. The Raiders defense will hang tough but the “O” won’t be able to score enough to seriously threaten.
Army 30 Colgate 10
Lehigh (2-8, 1-4) at Lafayette (3-7, 1-4) 12:30 P.M. Fisher Field Easton, PA
Live Streaming: Patriot League Network
The Pick: The 154th version of “College Football’s Most Played Rivalry” is admittedly lacking its traditional zest. Both teams enter their annual grudge match assured of losing records for the second time in the last five seasons (2014). The 2014 contest (3-7 Lehigh vs 4-6 Lafayette) just so happened to be played at Yankee Stadium. As a result, it was far easier to toss both team’s records out the window and look at the “bright side” of things. For Lehigh, 2018 has been especially disappointing. The Mountain Hawks entered 2018 off back-2-back Patriot League Championships and seemed well positioned to battle Colgate for a third straight. As things have played out, the defense continues to be among the worst in the country (38.3 ppg allowed, 109th in FCS) while the offense (14.9 ppg, 116th in FCS) has regressed significantly despite returning an All-American RB (Dom Bragalone) and All-PL QB (Brad Mayes). As the second season of the John Garrett era comes to an end, the 2018 campaign went about as expected on College Hill. The Leopard offense (14 ppg, 120th in FCS) is still searching for the next gear while the defense has been pretty solid (352 ypg allowed, 3rd in PL). If Garrett and company want to end Lafayette’s ugly streak of losing seasons in 2019, getting be production for the quarterback position needs to be high on the priority list. Sophomore Sean O’Malley (157 ypg, 4 TD 11 INT) continues to struggle despite having two full seasons worth of experience as the starter.
A lack of emotion and motivation should not be an issue despite the ugly records. Given Lafayette’s run of losing records and Lehigh’s rapid fall from grace, the cliché’ “a win will save the season” likely doesn’t apply in 2018. But it would certainly ease some of the pain for the winning side. Lehigh still possesses the more explosive skill players which gives them the chance to score from anywhere on the field. Outside of that, Lafayette would seem to have advantage in all other phases. The one area where the Leopard’s seem significantly better is in the trenches. That, combined with home field advantage means Lafayette notches their first win over Lehigh since 2014.
Lafayette 31 Lehigh 17
Holy Cross (4-6, 3-2) at Georgetown (5-5, 4-1) 12:30 P.M. Cooper Field Washington D.C.
Live Streaming: Patriot League Network
The Pick: Fresh off their late season bye, Georgetown hosts Holy Cross with visions of a winning season dancing in their head. The Hoyas have managed just one winning record (8-3) since joining the Patriot League prior to the 2001 season. A Georgetown “W” would also secure the Hoya’s first ever solo second place finish. Given Georgetown’s lack of scholarships and facility deficiencies, Coach Sgarlata has done an amazing job. Win or lose Saturday, Sgarlata will give Colgate’s Dan Hunt a run for Patriot League Coach of the Year honors. Like Georgetown, Holy Cross is also searching for a second place finish in the league standings. In the Crusader’s case it would be considered a tie for second but all involved would acknowledge who lays claims to the bragging rights. As an added bonus, a victory could cement Holy Cross’s place as the early 2019 favorite. Bob Chesney has certainly experienced his share of ups (win over Yale) and downs (loss to Bucknell) in his first year at the helm of the Crusader program but they’ve stayed on course. A big reason for that is Holy Cross’s ability to develop a physical identity on offense (152 rushing ypg, 2nd in PL) that Chesney desired. It’s allowed senior QB Geoff Wade (158 ypg 15 TD 8 INT) to get more comfortable as the season’s moved along. Georgetown signal caller Gunther Johnson (161 ypg 8 TD 5 INT, 3 rushing TD) has put together a respectable season in his own right despite having virtually no ground attack (90 ypg, 115th in FCS) to lean on. Last weekend, Johnson accounted for both touchdowns in the Hoya’s hard fought 14-3 win over Bucknell.
In order for Georgetown to make history they’ll need to follow the same recipe that’s gotten them to this point; stout defense and Gunther Johnson’s clutch play. The Hoyas will have to withstand a steady dose of Crusader RB Domenic Crozier (642 yards 8 TD) and Wade’s timely passing if they want to come out victorious. Kristian Tate (14.5 TFL) and the rest of the defense will do everything in their power to give Georgetown a chance. The question is, will it be enough? Holy Cross is the more complete team but the Hoyas are at home with a chance to conclude arguably their most successful season this millennium.
Georgetown 23 Holy Cross 21