The Patriot League football season has amazingly reached its penultimate week! With the finish line in sight Lafayette has seized control of the league race thanks to their win over Holy Cross last week. The Leopards will look to keep destiny in their hands when they square off against last year’s champion Colgate Saturday afternoon. The team that Lafayette booted from the catbird seat, Holy Cross, will try to keep their title hopes alive against Fordham in the “Big Apple”. In other league action, Georgetown will try to secure a winning record by taking down Bucknell in Lewisburg. The fourth game this week is a rare mid-November non-conference tussle between Lehigh and NEC member Sacred Heart.
I’m currently in Fargo, ND for #1 North Dakota State’s game against South Dakota so this week’s previews are a little shorter than usual.
Lehigh (4-5, 3-2) at Sacred Heart (6-4) 12 P.M. Campus Field; Fairfield, CT
Live Streaming: NEC Front Row
The Need to Know: Lehigh heads to the Nutmeg State for a rather unusual late season non-conference battle with Sacred Heart. The Mountain Hawks enter this game reeling from two straight league losses that have basically ended their title hopes. Lehigh is a bruised and battered team (especially at QB and the OL) as the season nears its conclusion. The Brown and White offense (16 ppg) needs to bounce back in a big way Saturday if they want to put a stop to their 2 game losing streak. The Pioneers put up 86 points in their two games (30 vs Bucknell/56 vs Lafayette) against Patriot League this season. Lehigh’s defense (22 ppg allowed) catches a bit of break as redshirt freshman quarterback Marquez McCray (11-14 105 yards 1 TD) will be making his second career start.
The Pioneers have arguably the worst defense in the NEC (406 ypg allowed) but it’s doubtful Lehigh will be able to exploit it. The Mountain Hawks best chance to head home with a win is to pressure McCray into mistakes and grind out points on offense. Given on the Pioneer’s two dominating wins against Patriot League competition this season it’s hard to image Lehigh keeping their dreams of a winning season alive.
Prediction: Sacred Heart 31 Lehigh 16
Colgate (3-8, 2-3) at Lafayette (3-7) 12:30 P.M. Fisher Field; Easton, PA
Live Streaming: Patriot League Network
The Need to Know: Lafayette attempts to get one step closer to their first Patriot League Title since 2013 when welcome Colgate to College Hill this weekend. Like in 2013, the Leopards are in position to grab the crown despite owning a losing record. Lafayette’s 23-20 win over then league unbeaten Holy Cross last Saturday gave the Leopards control of their destiny. The ‘Pards will need another strong performance from their freshman quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (16-25 196 yards 2 TD vs HC) against a Colgate defense that has finally started to play to their potential the last two weeks (27 total point allowed). Defensively (28 ppg allowed), Lafayette must contain a Raider offense that is operating much more efficiently now that quarterback Grant Breneman (162 ypg 5TD 5 INT) is finally healthy.
The Raiders late season surge can be attributed to improved quarterback play and winning more battles in the trenches. If Breneman is able to have success throwing and running the ball the Raiders will be able to control possession time (32 minute avg TOP). Colgate’s defense must be able to pressure and keep Shoemaker in pocket.
On paper this is a very evenly matched game between two teams playing their best football of the year. The slightest of edge goes to home team.
Prediction: Lafayette 28 Colgate 24
Georgetown (5-4, 1-3) at Bucknell (2-7, 2-2) 1 P.M. Christy Mathewson Memorial Stadium; Lewisburg, PA
Live Stream: Patriot League Network
The Need to Know: Well rested Georgetown makes the 3 hour trip north to Lewisburg to tangle with Bucknell Saturday afternoon. A Georgetown win would secure their first winning season since 2011 (8-3) and just the second one ever as a member of the Patriot League (joined in 2001). The Hoya’s offense (27 ppg) will try to take advantage of a Bison defense (34 ppg) that has struggled for much of the season. Granted, the Bucknell “D” is coming off their best performance of year in their win against Lehigh (209 total yards). Georgetown quarterback Gunther Johnson’s (145 ypg passing/34 ypg rushing) scrambling ability could be an important “X Factor” against Simeon Page (8 sacks), Rick Mottram (4 sacks) and company.
Bucknell enters this game with more momentum following their big win over Lehigh. Georgetown had an extra week to prepare which they needed after suffering three straight losses.
This game figures to be nip and tuck for 60 minutes.
Prediction: Bucknell 24 Georgetown 20
Holy Cross (5-5, 4-1) at Fordham (3-7, 1-3) 1 P.M. Jack Coffey Field; Bronx, NY
Live Streaming: The Patriot League Network
The Need to Know: Holy Cross will try to keep their Patriot League Title hopes alive with a win against a struggling Fordham team. The Crusaders 5 turnovers last week against Lafayette were too much to overcome in the 23-20 loss. As result, in order for Holy Cross to capture their first league title and playoff trip since 2009 they need to win their last two games and hope the Leopards lose to either Colgate or Lehigh. If Holy Cross is going to end the year strong they need quarterback Connor Degenhardt (202 ypg 13 TD 6 INT) and the of the rest offense (19 ppg) to raise their level play. The good news for Bob Chesney’s squad is Fordham might be the perfect bounce back opponent. The Rams have hit a wall after showing real promise during the first third of the season. Fordham managed just 208 total yards in last week’s 24-13 loss to Colgate. The Ram defense (451 total yards allowed, 252 rushing) didn’t fare much better in frigid Central New York conditions.
Fordham continues to be one of the biggest enigmas in FCS. The Rams have the personnel to be challenging for a league title. They should not be battling to stay out of the league basement as they are. As long as Holy Cross protects the ball and plays with more energy than they did last week they should head home with their dream of a championship still alive.
Prediction: Holy Cross 27 Fordham 17