Patriot League: Week 9 Preview

Bucknell (4-3, 1-1 ) at Colgate (4-4, 2-1) – Oct. 28th 1 PM Andy Kerr Stadium Hamilton, NY

Live Streaming – Patriot League Network

Bucknell and Colgate tangle for the 66th time in a crucial Patriot League contest Saturday afternoon. The Raiders have dominated this series overall (48-17 all-time lead) and in recent times. Colgate has won 9 out of the last 10 meetings between the two league foes. Bucknell’s only win in that time frame came at Andy Kerr Stadium 4 years ago. Not only do the Bison own the Patriot League’s only winning record as the season enters its 9th week but they also control their own destiny in the league race. If Bucknell is able to finish the regular season with wins over Colgate, Lehigh, Georgetown and at Fordham they’ll capture their first league title since 1996 and the program’s first ever 1-AA/FCS playoff bid. The Raiders are still in the mix but they need to win out and hope either Lehigh loses two games or there’s a 3-way log jam and the tiebreakers fall in their favor.  Both teams enter this game riding solid waves of momentum. Colgate has dominated their last two league foes (Fordham and Holy Cross) while Bucknell is coming off an epic overtime win over Lafayette.

With the way Grant Breneman and the Colgate offense is playing the last 3 weeks (466 ypg) Coach Hunt and his staff have to like how the unit has progressed from the start of the year. With that said, Bucknell’s defense (289 ypg allowed, 10th in FCS) is, with all due respect to Lafayette, the stingiest in the league. The key to this game will be Colgate’s ability to establish the run and Bucknell’s ability to stop it. On paper Colgate is a very balanced team (164 ypg passing, 177 ypg rushing) but they’re still very much run first with Holland, Mathews and Breneman all capable of making big plays with their legs. If Abdullah Anderson and the extremely formidable Bison front 7 is able to limit the damage on the ground and force Breneman to throw the ball 30+ times they have to like their chances to keep the Raiders offense in check.

Ultimately, Bucknell’s offense must control the ball and put points on the board when the opportunities present themselves. This is a game where wasted red zone trips will doom you. They won last week without scoring an offensive touchdown and have been wildly inconsistent all year. The Bison are averaging a paltry 76 ypg on the ground which is the main reason for their struggles. Quarterback John Chiarolanzio has been forced to carry much of the load which has stressed the “O”. If Colgate’s offense can avoid turnovers and the defense prevents Jack Horan from making a big play or two in the passing game they should be able to hold Bucknell to under 20 points.

Bucknell has had a nice season to date but top to bottom Colgate is the better team. If the Raiders avoid mistakes and are efficient on offense they’ll keep their playoff hopes alive.

Prediction: Colgate 27 Bucknell 13

Lehigh (2-5, 2-0) at Fordham (2-6, 1-2) – Oct. 28th 1 PM Jack Coffey Field Bronx, NY

Live Streaming – Patriot League Network

The preseason Patriot League Game of The Year has turned into a late October battle of 2 win teams. Lehigh entered the season as the odds on favorite to win the league but a historically bad defense (513 ypg allowed, 122nd in FCS) resulted in a 0-5 out of conference record. Thankfully for the Mountain Hawks they still possess one of the top offenses in FCS and a 2-0 league mark that includes a win over Colgate. Simply put, if they run the table (@ Fordham, @ Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lafayette) they’ll repeat as Patriot League Champions. Fordham’s 2 win season does not nearly have the same silver lining. Sure the Rams are mathematically alive for the league title but there dominos aren’t likely to fall that perfectly. Injuries and, like Lehigh, a terrible defense has derailed Fordham’s season. Preseason All-American running back Chase Edmonds has been in and out of the lineup for much of the season with a tweaked ankle. When Edmonds has played his production has been way down. 5th year senior quarterback Kevin Anderson has also missed time. As this point with 2 league losses Fordham is basically relegated to spoiler status. If nothing else, Fordham should want to exact some payback on Lehigh for the beating the Mountain Hawks administered last year in Bethlehem. Fordham has won the last two meetings in the Bronx. They scored 50+ points in both wins.

There’s no question the best unit on the field this Saturday will be the Lehigh offense. Led by quarterback Brad Mayes (353 ypg, 20 TDs 9 INTs) the Brown and White “O” continues to put up huge numbers on opposing defenses. Mayes’s favorite target, Preseason All-League WR Troy Pelletier, is coming off a school record 16 reception performance against Georgetown.  The senior has been virtually uncoverable in recent weeks. While Fordham’s pass defense has been “ok” statistically (231 ypg, 71st in FCS) high powered passing attacks have lit it up. To add to Fordham’s concerns on defense is a Lehigh rushing attack that has picked up steam in league play (228 ypg). Unless Lehigh turns the ball over it’s hard to imagine Fordham containing them. The Rams need DT Manny Adeyeye and the rest of the front 7 to play raise their level of play and pressure the heck out of Mayes to have any chance.

Before the season started this game figured to be an old school WAC type shootout between two of the best offenses in country. Now the potential of a shootout is based on Lehigh’s really good offense and their really bad defense. The question for Fordham is, can they exploit the Mountain Hawk’s obvious weakness? Outside of WR Austin Longi it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be ready to go on offense for the Rams. Edmonds has been listed as a starter more than once this year and failed to play. There’s rumors circulating around Anderson’s status so who knows there. If Anderson can’t go Luke Medlock will once again get the start. Whoever takes the field for Fordham;s offense is likely to have success against Lehigh’s defense. But not having Edmonds and Anderson at 100% is going to be costly when the offense has so little room for error.

Prediction: Lehigh 57 Fordham 31

Georgetown (1-6, 0-2) at Holy Cross (2-6, 1-2) – Oct. 28th 1 PM Fitton Field Worcester, MA

Live Streaming – Patriot League Network

Last place in the Patriot League might be on the line when Holy Cross and Georgetown duke it out Saturday. The Crusader’s level of play did not improve in Brian Rock’s first game as interim head coach. Holy Cross displayed a lack of energy and passion against Yale two weeks ago and that carried over to last week against Colgate. As a result, the Eli and Raiders outscored the Crusaders by a combined 77-7. There’s sadly no apparent positives to point to at this point if you’re a Holy Cross fan. Even starting quarterback Peter Pujals is struggling mightily. Perhaps the only thing they can take solace in is the old saying that “misery loves company” because things aren’t going much better for Georgetown. The Hoyas head to New England on a 6 game losing streak. The offense remains the Hoyas biggest issue. The unit currently ranks 110th in yards per game (279). Georgetown’s rushing attack is virtually non-existent (54.4 ypg 121st in FCS). Alex Valles leads the team with 154 yards rushing, for the season!

This game is going to come down to who wants it more. Georgetown might be limited in talent but they come to fight for 60 minutes. That obviously can’t be said for Holy Cross the last two weeks. The Crusaders have a more talented roster even though the results recently don’t reflect it. You don’t come within whisker of beating FBS UConn then crush a Top 25 New Hampshire team without competent players. This is the time when Pujals really needs to step-up and lead the offense on and off the field. Likewise, Nick McBeath needs be the heart and soul of the Crusaders “D”. These two have invested way too much in to Holy Cross football to go out in an embarrassing fashion.

Georgetown simply needs to play better on offense. Gunther Johnson (661 yards 3 TDs 0 INTs) has shown flashes of serious potential at quarterback but without any help from the rushing attack he’s been under constant pressure. Unless the Hoyas can put together some semblance of a ground game the Arizona transfer will continue to be a one man band in the backfield. Holy Cross knows this and will hedge their bets that Johnson doesn’t have the weapons outside that are capable of hurting the defense.  Fordham used this approach last week on their way to holding the Hoyas to 9 points. The game will come down to the wire with Holy Cross escaping with a MUCH needed win.

Prediction: Holy Cross 20 Georgetown 17

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