By Sam Partridge
College Sporting News
After emerging relatively unscathed from an earthquake, a hurricane, a tropical storm and my difficult three month old girl, it seems like a good time for me to take a look around and assess the state of the CAA two weeks into the 2011 season.
In recent years, the start of the season has played out rather predictably — i.e. start off with a few teams either beating or scaring the daylights out of some FBS schools, follow it up by beating up on some lesser non-conference teams and then navigate the CAA schedule.
The usual result has been multiple playoff berths and a spot in the FCS championship game.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to CAA preeminence this year.
In week one, outside of Richmond's surprising win over a woeful Duke team, the rest of the traditional powers got absolutely woodshedded, 40-17, 42-10, 58-22, 40-3 and 42-7.
These are not the kind of scores we're used to seeing from Delaware, JMU, UNH, William & Mary and Villanova.
However, while it might have been possible to explain away some of these scores due to the impact of weather on preparations, opponents looking to settle scores, bad starts, etc., the results from week two served to reinforce the idea that the CAA is not setting up to exert its recent outsized impact on the rest of FCS.
Uninspiring wins over West Chester, Central Connecticut St. and VMI brought up more questions for Delaware, JMU and W&M than they answered.
Monmouth at Villanova — The Temple loss was a gut punch, but the Towson game was a shocking reminder that the days of Szczur and Whitney are long gone. Can the injury-plagued Wildcats right the ship and get things turned around before the CAA schedule starts?
Rhode Island at Massachusetts — Two schools on the way out of the CAA, headed to much different locations. The Rams are a veteran team that showed they can play with the big boys are Syracuse last week. This is a good opportunity to get a better handle on what kind of team the Minutemen have this year.
New Haven at William & Mary — Not much to learn from this one except that the Tribe offense better show up after two woeful performances.
Maine at Albany — A decent win over Bryant and a deceptively close score at Pitt. Can the Black Bears get a win on the road at the Great Danes?
Delaware State at Delaware — It took a playoff game to finally bring these two teams together, but this regular season matchup between the only two Division I teams in the First State should be a regular affair. Can the Hornets pull off a shocker against the suspect Blue Hens in only the second regular-season meeting?
VMI at Richmond — The Spiders followed up the impressive Duke win with a sleeper against Wagner. VMI is another expected walkover, but it is important to see if the Spiders can do it in more impressive fashion.
Hampton at Old Dominion — Fresh off a win over future conference foe Georgia State, the Monarchs look to stay unbeaten in the battle for the Tidewater area. This should be an entertaining rivalry for years to come.
GAME OF THE WEEK
James Madison at Liberty
Without a doubt, this is the marquee matchup on the docket this week is the intrastate matchup where JMU goes on the road to Liberty.
Before the playoffs expanded, this would have been a must-win for Liberty to give themselves a shot at an at-large bid, but now it's simply another opportunity to show that the Flames can play with the upper echelon of FCS.
Much like William & Mary and Delaware, it's hard to draw much from the Dukes results so far, with a blowout loss at UNC followed by an uninspiring win over Central Connecticut State.
Liberty, on the other hand, actually gave North Carolina State a game effort, outgaining the Wolfpack but committing an egregious seven turnovers.
Still, the offense has shown it can move the ball, following up the NC State effort with 38 points against defending-NEC-champ Robert Morris in week two.
In arguably the biggest out of conference game of the season for Liberty, I think the Flames will control the game offensively and take out the Dukes, 20-16.
MY WEEK TWO TOP 25
1. Northern Iowa
2. Georgia Southern
3. Montana State
4. North Dakota State
5. Appalachian State
8. New Hampshire
11. William & Mary
14. Eastern Washington
16. Southern Illinois
17. James Madison
18. Stephen A. Austin
19. Central Arkansas
20. Southern Utah
22. Jacksonville State
23. Sacramento State
24. Eastern Kentucky
25. Rhode Island
Clearly, the Towson ranking is aggressive, but going by the results of the first two weeks, the Tigers deserve to get some respect despite their history.
And, while W&M and Delaware have been underwhelming to say the least, a veteran URI team deserves some respect for giving Syracuse all they could handle.
In a final note, I wanted to send out some kudos to Terence Thomas for his work on the CAA the past couple of years.
Terence's passion for the game was evident in his coverage and it was clear that Villanova's first FCS title was especially sweet for him and his son.
His yeoman-like efforts will be missed by CSN and the FCS community.
If I can get through a 10-K in Gloucester, MA on Sunday, I'll be back with more CAA news next week.