As the fall nights continue to get colder in the Northeast, the Patriot League football race is really starting to heat up. There’s no question the league had a horrible September and lacks a natioonally relevant team but now that conference season is here it’s all about a single goal, win it and get to the playoffs. The Fordham (0-0)-Georgetown (0-0) game should be a large piece to the puzzle. They Hoyas have never won the Patriot League Title or participated in the FCS playoffs. Following their loss to Lehigh, defending champion Colgate (0-1) is in a must win out to repeat position as they play host to Bucknell. The Bison are in the same spot after losing their league opener to Holy Cross. Lafayette faces their final non-conference hurdle this week as they travel to “Old Nassua” to take on a Top 25 Tiger team. Lehigh is enjoying their second bye of the season following the thrilling win over Colgate last weekend.
Lafayette (0-5, 0-0) at #20 Princeton (3-0) 7 P.M. Princeton Stadium; Princeton, NJ
Live TV: ESPNU
The Need to Know: Lafayette makes the short trip to Central New Jersey to take on Princeton in a nationally televised game. The Leopards will try to end a 10 game losing streak (last win 2003) to the Tigers. It will be a tall task since Bob Surace’s team is currently riding a 13 game winning streak which is the second longest in FCS (NDSU 26 games). The 2019 edition of the Tigers might not be quite as good as last year’s version (finished #11T) but it’s still very much worthy of its Top 25 ranking. The offense (42 ppg) hasn’t missed much of a beat with quarterback Kevin Davidson having an excellent start to the season (74% comp, 331 ypg, 10 TD 1INT). WR Andrew Griffin has been the big play threat in the passing game; 22 ypc/ 5 TD. The Princeton defense is no slouch either (13.3 ppg allowed). They will be tested by the Leopard’s talent quarterback Keegan Shoemaker (257 ypg 8 TD 5 INT).
Lafayette is coming off a much needed bye week after their 0-5 start. They’ve now lost 8 straight games dating back to last season. If Lafayette head coach John Garrett wants to defeat his alma mater for the first time the Leopard defense (34 ppg allowed) must have their best game of the season. The Tigers will throw all sorts of formations and personnel groupings at the ‘Pard “D”. If the Lafayette defense is not prepared things will get away from them in a hurry.
Princeton has dominated Lafayette (43-3-4) historically. That trend will continue under the lights at Princeton Stadium.
Prediction: Princeton 52 Lafayette 27
Holy Cross (2-3, 1-0) at Brown (1-2) 12:30 P.M. Brown Stadium; Providence, RI
Live Stream: ESPN+
The Need to Know: After notching their first Patriot League win of the season, Holy Cross jumps out of conference to take on the Brown Bears. The Crusaders used a strong defensive performance to defeat Bucknell 21-14 last weekend. The Holy Cross “O” remains a work in progress as quarterback Connor Degenhardt (189 ypg 2 TD and 2 INT) has yet to find his stride. If the Crusaders want to capture their first Patriot League Title since 2009 the offense must find a way to create more explosive plays. Facing a Bear defense that is surrendering 34 ppg and 364 yards through the air could be just what the doctor ordered.
The Bears offense is led by do everything quarterback E.J. Perry. The junior signal caller is averaging 255 yards passing and an impressive 109 more on the ground (8.6 ypr). Perry’s ability to attack a defense with his arm and his legs is a huge asset when facing a unit as good the Crusader’s. The Holy Cross defense has the pieces to be one of, if not the top unit in the PL. If they’re able to contain Perry the odds of a Brown win greatly diminish. Brown was picked to finish last in the Ancient Eight following last year’s disastrous 1-9 campaign.
This is an interesting game because it’s been tough to gauge just how good either team is. Holy Cross is 2-1 against FCS competition but have yet to play a complete game; especially on offense. Brown has a five point win over Providence neighbor Bryant and two losses against respectable opponents (Harvard/URI). If the Crusader defense is able to limit Perry’s damage they should be able to manufacture just enough points to escape the “Renaissance City” with a victory.
Prediction: Holy Cross 27 Brown 20
Bucknell (0-5, 0-1) at Colgate (0-6, 0-1) 1 P.M. Andy Kerr Stadium; Hamilton, NY
Live Stream: Patriot League Network
The Need to Know: A lengthy losing streak will mercifully come to an end when Bucknell and Colgate tango in Central New York Saturday afternoon. The Bison are mired in a now school record 11 game losing streak. To be fair, the struggling Bucknell program has faced a difficult schedule to start the season. Between the schedule and roster deficiencies, first year head coach Dave Cecchini inherited a very tough situation in Lewisburg. His Bison squad did play extremely hard in their 21-14 loss to Holy Cross last weekend. The offense (13 ppg) was able to get the ground attack going last week (139 yards) thanks in large part to Chad Freshnock’s strong performance (14 carries 78 yards 1 TD). The “O” simply failed to make the key plays in the 4th quarter that were needed to win. The defense (41 ppg allowed) played their best game of the season against a rather limited Crusader offense.
Colgate’s season continues to spiral downward (7 game losing streak) in shocking fashion. The Raiders 11 game league winning streak ended last week against Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks were also the most recent league foe to defeat (10/7/17) the Raiders prior to last week. The Colgate offense (11 ppg) failed to produce despite the return of quarterback Grant Breneman. The lack of a running attack (88 ypg) by traditional Colgate standards is the biggest issue. The talented Malik Twyman (43 ypg) is playing through an ankle injury which combined with Breneman’s own injury woes and poor line play have caused the “O” to come to a grinding halt. If Breneman’s health allows him to be more effective running the ball against Bucknell the Raiders will be able to grind out yards. Nick Wheeler (10 TFL) and the Colgate defense should have little trouble containing the Bison offense.
For a multitude of reason’s Colgate is off to their worst start since 1995 (finished 0-11). Thankfully for the Raiders they get to square off against a Bison team that might be nearing full “rock bottom” mode. This game should be competitive with the home team making a few big plays in all three phases to win.
Prediction: Colgate 24 Bucknell 13
Fordham (2-4, 0-0) at Georgetown (4-1, 0-0) 2 P.M. Cooper Filed; Washington D.C.
Live Stream: Patriot League Network
The Need to Know: It might be only early October but there will still be major Patriot League Title implications on the line when Fordham and Georgetown clash in our nation’s capital. The Hoyas are off to their best start through five games since 1999 when they began 5-0 en-route to a 9-2 season. That was Georgetown’s last season as a full time member of the MAAC (no longer sponsors football). Expectations were high heading into 2019 and so far Rob Sgarlata’s team has met them. Georgetown is once again led by an excellent defense (9.6 ppg allowed) that has the potential to be the best they’ve had since joining the Patriot League. The offense (34 ppg) continues to be “good enough” behind the two headed monster of Gunther Johnson (5 Pass TD/3 Rush TD) and Joseph Brunell (3 Pass TD) at quarterback.
Fordham has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this season. They’ve been trading a well-played game with a clunker through the first six contests of 2019. Despite having one of the best linebacker corps in FCS, the defense remains an enigma. The unit has struggled for several years dating back to Moorhead’s tenure. The Ram offense (23 ppg) hasn’t exactly lit it up either but overall they’ve been solid/good enough. Tim DeMorat (204 ypg 11 TD 5 INT) and his receivers will need to be at their best against the stout Hoya defense if Fordham wants to pull off the huge win. Running back Zach Davis likely won’t find much daylight against an excellent Hoya front 7.
This is a really intriguing game. Fordham has shown the potential to be a legit contender in the Patriot League but their inability to put forth consistent effort week to week is concerning. The Hoyas on the other hand have been extremely consistent since their season opening loss to Davidson. With that in mind, Georgetown seems destined to make it three straight wins against opponents (Columbia & Cornell) from the “Empire State”.
Prediction: Georgetown 26 Fordham 21