Week 11 CAA FCS Football Game Breakdowns

George Hammond

Week 11 Colonial Athletic Association Game Breakdowns

With two weeks left in the regular season, the stretch run should be a thriller. But could we really expect anything else in the always-competitive CAA?

Including No. 4 Old Dominion (8-1, 5-1), which isn’t eligible for the league title, six teams are within one game of the top spot: No. 8 New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1), No. 7 James Madison (7-2, 5-1), Richmond (6-3, 4-2), No. 18 Villanova (6-3, 4-2) and No. 22 Towson (5-4, 4-2).  Not only is the CAA title still up in the air, so are the league’s representatives in the 20-team FCS playoffs. Last year the CAA garnered five playoff spots, but it might only get four this year because of competition from other conferences.

Here’s the way it breaks down:

* With a bye this weekend, New Hampshire can rest up for a key regular-season finale at home against Towson. But the Wildcats, which held off William & Mary 28-25 on Saturday, should make their ninth consecutive playoff appearance even if they would lose to Towson.

* Likewise for ODU, which beat Georgia State 53-27 on Saturday. The Monarchs host William & Mary (2-7, 1-5) Saturday before visiting JMU to end the regular season. But even if they lose both, it’s difficult not to envision ODU in the playoffs.

* This is where it gets interesting. It appears four teams, James Madison, Richmond, Villanova and Towson, are fighting for two playoff spots.

JMU visits Villanova on Saturday in a huge contest before playing host to ODU on November 17. After JMU, the Wildcats end the season at Delaware (5-4, 2-4).  Richmond, meanwhile, hosts the Blue Hens on Saturday before finishing at William & Mary while Towson should get a victory at home this weekend against winless Rhode Island before heading to New Hampshire.

For New Hampshire, the victory over William & Mary was somewhat of a milestone win.  Entering the contest, the Tribe held a 13-2 series advantage and had won nine straight. It was the first win for New Hampshire in the rivalry since 1998 and head coach Sean McDonnell’s first victory over William & Mary.

“This game didn’t surprise me,” McDonnell said. “I knew it was going to be that kind of game with William & Mary. I think our score right before the half (Wildcats led 18-7 at halftime) really helped, and it was a great team victory against a team that always gives us trouble.”  New Hampshire is looking for its first outright CAA championship since 1994.

Here’s a look at this week’s games:


#7 JAMES MADISON AT #18 VILLANOVA (1 p.m. Saturday at Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.)

Don’t look now, but the Dukes are back. After two less than stellar efforts, James Madison looked like a playoff team on Saturday when it dismantled Maine (3-6, 2-4) 31-7. The Dukes held the Black Bears to 104 net yards. “We know what’s at stake and if we want to go deep in the postseason, it starts today,” JMU linebacker Stephon Robertson told the Bangor (Maine) Daily News. “We came out and played like it was a playoff game. We were dominant on both sides of the ball and hopefully it will carry over into next week.” Robertson had seven tackles and an interception while Ryan Smith, College Sports Madness CAA Defensive Player of the Week, had two interceptions. The return of quarterback Justin Thorpe seemed to spark JMU’s offense too. Benched a week ago for ineffectiveness, Thorpe rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, he was 9-of-12 for 108 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Villanova is coming off a bye. The key to Saturday’s contest will be how the Wildcats’ rushing offense (No. 8 in the nation) fares against JMU’s rushing defense (tops in the CAA).

Projected score: James Madison 24, Villanova 14


DELAWARE AT RICHMOND (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Robins Stadium, Richmond, Va.)

Where’s the love? That might be what Richmond, unranked in the College Sports Madness Top 25, is wondering. The Spiders, coming off a 39-0 victory over Rhode Island, seemingly have been below the radar screen all year. But that can change with victories over Delaware and William & Mary to end the regular season. The Spiders have victories over James Madison and Villanova and an 8-3 mark would get them serious consideration for a playoff spot. Incredibly, the Spiders have allowed only one sack this season, tops in the nation, and might be getting a dangerous Delaware team at the right time. The Hens lost a heart-breaking 34-27 overtime thriller to Towson on Saturday, which eliminated them from postseason consideration, and one wonders whether the Hens can rebound on the road.

Projected score: Richmond 27, Delaware 20


WILLIAM & MARY AT #4 OLD DOMINION (Noon Saturday at S.B. Ballard Stadium, Norfolk, Va.)

This will be the third and perhaps last meeting between the two close rivals just 45 minutes apart as ODU heads to Conference USA next year. The series, which has been heated already, is tied 1-1. Last year ODU prevailed 35-31, but the postgame handshake between ODU coach Bobby Wilder and Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock was less than cordial. Saturday’s lopsided victory at Georgia State should put ODU in the playoffs. Now it’s just a question of whether the Monarchs can land a home game and/or a first-round bye. Meanwhile, we’ve talked about how Towson might be the best four-loss team in the nation. How about William & Mary (2-7, 1-5) as the best two-win team? The Tribe lost another close contest to New Hampshire on Saturday, 28-25. For the season, William & Mary has lost five games by a total of 11 points. Injuries have hurt the Tribe, particularly at quarterback where Brent Caprio and Raphael Ortiz are out for the season, leaving Mike Graham as the starter. Graham has attempted 51 passes this year, but this will be a tough task on ODU’s Senior Day.

Projected score: Old Dominion 38, William & Mary 17


RHODE ISLAND AT #22 TOWSON (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Unitas Stadium, Towson, Md.)

Towson’s victory at Delaware on Saturday kept the Tigers alive for a playoff spot. Should they win as expected on Saturday and topple New Hampshire in the regular-season finale, Towson could make a strong argument for a playoff bid.  Two of its losses are to Kent State and LSU. Quarterback Grant Enders threw for two touchdowns and Terrance West rushed for two more as the Tigers survived an overtime thriller at Delaware. Meanwhile, the Rams were blanked by Richmond 39-0 as their struggles continue.

Projected score: Towson 42, Rhode Island 7


GEORGIA STATE AT MAINE (2 p.m. Saturday at Alfond Stadium, Orono, Maine)

While the two teams end their season with just a combined four victories, it’s safe to say the Black Bears’ program (3-6, 2-4) is in much better shape than Georgia State’s (1-9, 1-6). Georgia State joins the FBS Sun Belt Conference next year, but many questions surround the program. For starters, the Panthers don’t draw in Atlanta. The announced crowd Saturday at the Georgia Dome against Old Dominion was 12,293, but that might be about 12,000 more than were present. The crowds have been so sparse that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the school would rather play road games for the guaranteed payout. In 2013, Georgia State plays at West Virginia for $550,000 and at Alabama for $700,000. In 2015, it visits Oregon for a payout of $900,000. Meanwhile, Maine is coming off a lopsided loss to James Madison, but the Black Bears are expected to handle Georgia State.

Projected score: Maine 31, Georgia State 14


See All FCS Games of the Week Breakdowns