CAA preview: the final push

CAA preview: the final push
November 21, 2013, 11:15 am
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Schedule:

Maine @ New Hampshire, Sat. 12:00 p.m. on CSN+
Albany @ Stony Brook, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
James Madison @ Towson, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
Delaware vs. Villanova at PPL Park, Sat. 3:30 p.m.
William & Mary @ Richmond, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

Matchup of the week: Maine @ New Hampshire, Sat. 12:00 p.m. on CSN+

With their win over Rhode Island last week, Maine clinched its first ever CAA Conference title and the automatic playoff bid that comes with it. This Saturday they will play rival New Hampshire in the Battle of the Brice-Cowell Musket.

Maine’s regular season has already been a rousing success by any measurement. The Black Bears won their first conference title since 2001 and are undefeated in conference play. A win this Saturday would give them 11 regular-season games for the first time in school history.

The Black Bears will square off with a New Hampshire team desperate to improve its resume in the hopes of snagging one of the 13 at-large bids for the FCS Football tournament. Despite having only a 6-4 record, the Wildcats’ losses have come against FBS Central Michigan, two-loss Lehigh and Towson, and 7-4 William & Mary. None of these would really qualify as ‘bad’ losses. Still, five losses would likely end whatever playoff hopes they still have, making this a must-win for New Hampshire.

The good news is that New Hampshire has owned Maine in the teams’ recent history, winning nine of their past 10 meetings. For that reason, don’t expect the Blackbears to rollover. Maine may have nothing to play for this week but pride, but against a rival like New Hampshire you can bet they will bring their best effort regardless of the pending postseason.

Player Coach to watch: Bob Ford, Albany

After 41 years as the head coach at Albany, this Saturday will be Bob Ford’s last game. Though the season may not have gone exactly as planned, that does not take away from what he has done in his remarkable tenure as a coach.

Ford has been Albany’s only head coach, taking over the program in 1970 when the team was still considered a club. It was not upgraded to varsity until 1973.

In his career, Ford has compiled a 265-190-1 record, which puts him first in wins among all active FCS coaches. Can the Great Danes steal a victory for their coach in his last game? Stony Brook is only 4-6 on the year and Albany, despite their record, has been no pushover. Four of their losses this year have been by six points or fewer.

The emotions will be running high for Ford and the Great Danes this weekend. Sometimes a team can ride those emotions to victory. Perhaps Ford has one more trick up his sleeve for his final game.

Upset alert: William & Mary @ Richmond, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

The Tribe are also trying to make their case for a playoff spot, but they face a much tougher matchup in Richmond than you might think.

Richmond is 5-6 but has found its stride in recent weeks winning their last three including last week's 46-43 win at Delaware. Of their six losses, the Spiders lost five of them by seven points or fewer. Richmond has been competitive all year, but they just have not been able to translate that into wins until now.

Richmond's strength is its offense. The Spiders are second in the CAA in total offense behind only Towson and lead the league in passing offense. The Tribe leads the nation in scoring defense, but after a tough five game stretch, Richmond may be able to catch William & Mary with its guard down.

In their last five games, the Tribe have faced ranked opponents going 3-2 in that stretch. They really need this game if they want a shot at the playoffs, but Richmond is better than their record indicates and could upset the Tribe and steal the Capital Cup.

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