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My Week 8 Ranking and Week 9 Picks

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Week 8 Top 25:

1: North Dakota State Bison
2: Montana State Bobcats
3: Northern Iowa Panthers
4: Georgia Southern Eagles
5: Towson Tigers
6: Maine Black Bears
7: Montana Grizzlies
8: James Madison Dukes
9: New Hampshire Wildcats
10: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
11: Wofford Terriers
12: Sam Houston State Bearkats
13: Appalachian State Mountaineers
14: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
15: Old Dominion Monarchs
16: Liberty Flames
17: Eastern Washington Eagles
18: Illinois State Redbirds
19: Indiana State Sycamores
20: Harvard Crimson
21: Chattanooga Mocs
22: Brown Bears
23: Holy Cross Crusaders
24: Central Arkansas Bears
25: Alabama State Hornets

Iíve been high on Towson all year and the sweep of the I-64 teams (Richmond, ODU and W&M) is an impressive accomplishment and merits a top 5 ranking. Iím also happy to see teams that I kept in the rankings even with losing records justify their spots, i.e. Liberty and Eastern Washington. Still difficult to fill out the bottom third of the ranking but things should clear themselves up in the next couple of weeks. Two huge games this week with Northern Iowa/North Dakota State and Georgia Southern/Appalachian State on the schedule. I like the Bison and Eagles to get wins and take control of their respective leagues.

This weekís Games

MASSACHUSETTS AT RICHMOND

With their backs to the wall, the Richmond Spiders try to stay alive at home on Saturday against UMass. With four losses already, all at the hands of top 10 teams, this Richmond team is on the brink but still awfully dangerous. Aaron Corp and Tre Gray are the most dangerous pitch and catch combo in the league and I expect they will continue to have success even against a solid UMass defense. The Minutemen played well against UNH last week, but came away with a disappointing loss in the Colonial Clash at Gillette and it will be tough for them to get back up for this test on the road at Richmond.

Last year's affair affair was a crazy one, played in a howling wind, in which Richmond threw only two passes before driving the length of the field for the winning score in the last minute. Not sure if the finish will be as exciting, but I expect the Spiders to pull out another victory on the home turf. Eight-leggers 27 Tri-corners 23

MAINE AT VILLANOVA

The first-place Black Bears head on the road again to take on the cellar-dwelling Wildcats outside of Philadelphia. As long as Andy Talley keep describing his team as not ready to win, I'm going to assume that it's the case. Still lacking a solid playmaker at quarterback, Villanova simply put up enough of a fight offensively to give Maine a worth challenge. The CAA leaders are playing with plenty of confidence and Warrren Smith and his diverse options on offense and an opportunistic defense and special teams will be plenty to stay undefeated in the league. Black Bears 33 Mildcats 16

RHODE ISLAND AT NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Rams got a solid win last week but it's a step up in class from the struggling Blue Hens to the rolling Wildcats. Outside of a mistake-filled performance against William & Mary, Kevin Decker and the New Hampshire offense have been putting up big, crooked numbers every week. The Rams offense has shown the ability to hang in for a while against a still-suspect New Hampshire defense, but ultimately the boys from Kingston don't have the horses. Thankfully, the unhappy trip home to Rhode Island from Durham, NH is a short one. Cowell Cats 37 Rhody Rams 27

DELAWARE AT TOWSON

Two teams going in opposite directions meet at Unitas Stadium on Saturday. KC Keeler is trying to figure out what happened to the group who beat William & Mary 21-0. Since then, his team has played sloppy and with a lack of confidence. On the other side, coach Ambrose has no problems with the confidence of his group. After back to back last-minute wins, the Tigers had an efficient win in Williamsburg with a perfectly executed gameplan. The upstarts from Towson are balanced, have a good mix of playmakers and the self-belief that goes along with success.

I made the comment in the mid-season review that Delaware doesn't do anything great, but does everything pretty well. The problem is that when that is the case, the team needs to play well in all phases to win. With Tim Donnelly struggling at quarterback and a defense that seems to have lost some confidence, the Blue Hens are falling short in a couple of areas. Against a team playing well and executing at the level of Towson, it's a recipe for a loss. This has been a one-sided CAA rivalry but with a win Saturday, maybe we're on the way to another heated local rivalry. Tigers 31 Blue Hens 20

GAME OF THE WEEK:

JAMES MADISON AT OLD DOMINION
This game has been described as the best rivalry ever between two teams who have never played each other. As in-state foes who have battled in every other sport for years in the CAA, there is no love lost between these two schools and the atmosphere on Saturday should be intense at Foreman Field. Even more important, it's a battle between two teams with two losses, where the winner has an inside track to a playoff berth and the loser will have three losses and could be on shaky ground as the calendar rolls into November.

For the Monarchs, Taylor Heinicke will be under center again as Thomas DeMarco continues to battle back from the high ankle sprain he suffered way back aginst UMass. Booby Wilder has plenty of confidence in his freshman signal-caller, though, and the Old Dominion offense might be more effective with him starting anyway. The Dukes weakness so far this season has been in the secondary when they can't get pressure on the quarterback. The ODU offensive line should give Heinicke time to take advantage, especially if the Monarch running game can be effective early.

On the other side of the ball, Jace Edwards continues to improve, but he is not the weapon that Heinicke is and the Dukes running game needs to carry the load. The Monarch front seven is one of the more physical in the league and should be able to slow JMU down enough to force Edwards to be the difference-maker. It won't be enough and ODU will come out ahead in the Oyster Bowl. ODU 31 JMU 23

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Comments

  1. caatoday's Avatar
    Snowing up here in Westchester county NY right now. Looking at the earliest snowfall since the Civil War. Could impact some games. We'll see.
  2. caatoday's Avatar
    Two CAA games in early action. 7-0 UNH up in Durham after the first quarter and 10-7 JMU in the Oyster Bowl against ODU early in the second. Only about 40 up in New Hampshire but they're going to get the game in ahead of the weather. Rhode Island actually moving the ball and controlling TOP but two turnovers have really hurt them.
  3. caatoday's Avatar
    JMU and ODU in a first-half shootout in Norfolk. Surprise so far is Jace Edwards at 11-12 for 186 yards so far. Heck of an improvement for the young quarterback.

    JMU with twice the yardage and time of possession so far. Big defensive stand, though, from the Monarch D to hold the Dukes to a field goal. If they only head to the half down 20-14, Bobby Wilder can't be too unhappy given how they've been outplayed.

    ODU quickly back down to the JMU 30.
  4. caatoday's Avatar
    45-yarder blocked to close the half in Norfolk. 20-14 Dukes.

    Rams are hanging tough up north. 14-6 Wildcats at UNH.

    Early score for UMass as well. 7-0 Minutemen in Richmond.
  5. caatoday's Avatar
    Not sure what's going on with UNH opponents, but Rhode Island failed on a two-point conversion after cutting the lead to 14-6. After the way UMass threw away a bunch of points on conversions last week, can't believe the Rams just started out the same way.

    UMass now up 14-0 in Richmond. Spiders have 6 yards, no first downs and a turnover. Seems like a team that just can't seem to figure things out. Minutemen trying to do the same thing they did to Delaware a couple of weeks ago, i.e. get out to a big lead and then let the running game and the defense put the game away.
  6. caatoday's Avatar
    Monarchs get a quick FG and a stop. ODU with the ball down 20-17.

    Rhode Island making things very interesting up in Cowell Stadium. 21 apiece in the third quarter.

    UMass with a 21-0 edge in Richmond already.
  7. caatoday's Avatar
    Field goal drilled from 50 yards and we're all tied up at 20 in Norfolk. Just the battle we expected for the first matchup between these two teams.

    Rhode Island continuing to surprise, now up 24-21 with just under 6 minutes left in the 3rd.
  8. caatoday's Avatar
    Big goal-line stand by the Spiders to keep things at 21-7 before the half in Richmond. Not sure why you don't just kick the field goal and take a three-score lead but the Minutemen tried to throw and Pagel was hurried into an incompletion.

    20-20 apiece still as they move to the 4th quarter at the Oyster Bowl.

    UNH back on top 28-24 but URI is deep inside Wildcat territory, looking to take the lead back.

    Lots of action across the CAA!
  9. caatoday's Avatar
    Surprised that there's not a better crowd in Norfolk, but the home team is driving for the lead. First and goal from the seven, Heinicke throws it away. Same result on second down. Another incomplete pass on third and the Monarchs settle for a field goal and a 23-20 lead. Not sure why they abandoned the run in that situation, but it's a 3-point lead nonetheless.
  10. caatoday's Avatar
    After a penalty that pushed them back, URI misses a 44-yard field goal and still trails 28-24 early in the fourth despite a 30-16 edge in time of possession.