Week 1 CAA FCS Football Game Breakdowns

George Hammond

Week 1 CAA Conference Breakdowns

NO. 8 TOWSON AT KENT STATE (7 p.m. Thursday at Dix Stadium in Kent, OH)

This is an interesting matchup between a Colonial Athletic Association power and a Mid-American Conference team that wants to build on winning four of its last five games in 2011. It also can help answer the question: How do FCS teams compare with some of the lower Division I programs? The preseason pick to win the CAA this season, the Tigers (9-3, 7-1 last year) averaged 34.8 points a game, and most of the offense returns including quarterback Grant Enders and sophomore running back Terrance West, who led the FCS with 29 TDs in 2011. The Golden Flashes (5-7, 4-4) appear to be a little stronger on the defensive side, so this should be a good matchup with Towson’s high-powered offense. Kent State, which is picked to finish fourth in the MAC East, will start senior Spencer Keith at quarterback.  Although he’s started the previous three seasons, junior college transfer David Fisher was in the running for the job, too, so this may be a concern with the offense.

Projected score: Towson 24, Kent State 21


WEST CHESTER AT No. 25 DELAWARE (7:30 p.m. Thursday at Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium in Newark, DE)

This neighborhood rivalry comes to an end with this contest. The two schools (only about 25 miles apart) have played 52 times with the Blue Hens leading the series 45-6-1. Because the Rams (5-6, 4-3 in 2011) are Division II, a Delaware victory doesn’t help the Blue Hens as far as making the FCS playoffs go, and that was evident last year when Delaware (7-4, 5-3) just missed out on the postseason. The last Rams’ victory in the series came in 1992, and another upset will be tough to come by in Newark. Delaware’s defense appears loaded and should be able to have its way with the Rams. Meanwhile, Trent Hurley, a transfer from Bowling Green, has been named the starting quarterback for the Hens. Expect a healthy dose of Hens’ running back Andrew Pierce in this one as West Chester had trouble stopping the run last year, although it plans to use a 4-3 defense this season to combat that weakness.

Projected score: Delaware 34, West Chester 3


No. 15 NEW HAMPSHIRE AT HOLY CROSS (7:30 p.m. Thursday at Fitton Field in Worcester, MA)

New Hampshire won last year’s meeting 39-32 in Durham, N.H., and this one figures to be just as close. The series is tied 6-6, although prior to last season the two hadn’t met since 1984. The opener will mark only the second contest to ever take place under the lights at Fitton Field. Holy Cross, which has had seven consecutive winning seasons, returns 17 starters. One of the few places where there is a question mark is at quarterback. Fifth-year senior Kevin Watson, the only quarterback on the roster to see game action, is the likely starter. Meanwhile in Durham, the Wildcats (8-4, 6-2) recently named redshirt freshman Sean Goldrich as their starting quarterback. Seven starters return on both sides of the ball for New Hampshire as it enters the season with the longest active streak of FCS playoff appearances with eight.

Projected score: Holy Cross 27, New Hampshire 24


VILLANOVA AT TEMPLE (7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA)

This will be the third in a series of four Mayor’s Cup games between the two Philly rivals. Temple (9-4, 5-3) outclassed a young Villanova (2-9, 1-7) team last year 42-7, as Villanova had 17 first-year players see action in that contest. However, the Wildcats should offer more resistance this time. The series actually dates to 1908 with Villanova holding a slight 16-14-2 advantage. Although the Wildcats were picked to finish eighth in the preseason CAA coaches poll, they do return 10 starters on defense, and they are settled on offense with Chris Polony established as the starting quarterback. Still, this is a difficult task as Steve Addazio’s Owls figure to be a prominent player in the Big East, their first in the league after spending four seasons in the MAC.

Projected score: Villanova 17, Temple 28


RICHMOND AT VIRGINIA (3 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, VA)

A lot of story lines are involved in this one. Virginia head coach Mike London is a former Spiders’ coach, who led Richmond to the FCS national title in 2008. Plus, Cavs’ quarterback Mike Rocco is the nephew of first-year Spiders’ coach Danny Rocco, former Liberty head coach. Those plots likely hold more intrigue than the game will. Richmond (3-8, 0-8) is just 2-26-2 against the Cavs and hasn’t won since 1946. The Spiders, picked ninth out of 11 teams in the preseason CAA coaches’ poll, also have injury problems. Safety Cooper Taylor and linebacker Darius McMillan each has a broken hand and their status is questionable. Meanwhile, Virginia (8-5, 5-3), which lost to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl 43-24, is expecting big things even if it was picked to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal Division this year.

Projected Score: Richmond 10, Virginia 31


No. 40 SOUTH CAROLINA STATE AT GEORGIA STATE (7:30 p.m. Thursday at Georgia Dome, Atlanta)

The two met last year in Orangeburg, S.C., with South Carolina State prevailing 23-13. But Georgia State was playing without its top quarterback that day due to injury. Georgia State (3-8) begins its first and only season of CAA play before moving up to the FBS ranks next year. This also will be Head Coach Bill Curry’s final season. The founder of the program a few years ago will turn 70 in October.  South Carolina State (7-4, 6-2) was picked to finish second in the MEAC coaches’ poll this year.

Projected Score: South Carolina State 20, Georgia State 17


No. 43 WILLIAM & MARY AT MARYLAND (3 p.m. Saturday at Byrd Stadium, College Park, MD)

Preseason injuries already have hurt both teams. W&M will be without middle linebacker Dante Cook because of a knee injury while the Terps suffered a crushing blow when starting quarterback C.J. Brown tore an ACL during preseason and will miss the season. Plus, Maryland (2-10, 1-7) will be without senior linebacker Kenny Tate because of a knee injury.  Maryland will go with true freshman Perry Hills (from Pittsburgh Central Catholic). The two teams met last in 2006 with the Terps prevailing 27-14. Last season was a big disappointment for the Tribe (5-6, 3-5), but even with Maryland’s injuries, beating the Terps in College Park might be too much to ask.

Projected Score: Maryland 17, William & Mary 10


No. 33 DUQUESNE AT No. 10 OLD DOMINION (6 p.m. Saturday at Foreman Field, Norfolk, VA)

There’s plenty of buzz in Norfolk as the Monarchs prepare for their final season in the CAA. ODU announced this summer it will move to Conference USA (2015 for first official football season). ODU is picked second in the CAA coaches poll and has plenty of weapons returning, including sophomore quarterback Taylor Heinicke. But the Dukes have weapons, too. Duquesne (9-2, 7-1) also was picked second in its conference (Northeast), and has senior quarterback Sean Patterson leading the way. Patterson is 13-3 as a starter. This is an obvious step up in class for Duquesne, but the Dukes shouldn’t go quietly.

Projected Score: Old Dominion 31, Duquesne 17


ST. FRANCIS (PA.) at No. 5 JAMES MADISON (6 p.m. Saturday at Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA)

At least on paper, this might be the biggest mismatch of the opening weekend. JMU (8-5, 5-3) is being touted as a national title contender this year while the Red Flashes (2-9, 1-7) would just love to be competitive.  St. Francis, picked for last place in the NEC, has won just five games in the last four years. It can score points, but it allows a lot of points, too. If St. Francis is to make a game of it, they must control quarterback Justin Thorpe. Easier said than done.

Projected Score: James Madison 42, St. Francis 10


See All FCS Games of the Week Breakdowns