CAA preview: opposites attracting

CAA preview: opposites attracting
November 7, 2013, 10:00 am
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James Madison @ New Hampshire, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Villanova @ Rhode Island, Sat. 12:30 p.m.
Richmond @ Stony Brook, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
William & Mary @ Delaware, Sat. 3:00 p.m. on CSN+
Maine @ Albany, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Matchup of the week: William & Mary @ Delaware, Sat. 3:00 p.m. on CSN+

It would be hard to find two teams more different than William & Mary and Delaware, but that just adds to the intrigue of this Saturday’s rivalry matchup.

The Tribe lives and dies with its stalwart defense. When they limit their opponent to 14 points or less they are 6-0 versus 0-3 when allowing more than 14. That’s the kind of thing a team can get away with when they lead the FCS in scoring defense as William & Mary does. This will be the best defense Delaware has faced all season.

By contrast, Delaware’s strength is its offense. The Blue Hens boast a very balanced attack averaging over 200 yards per game in both rushing and passing.

Both teams also come into this game with a lot of momentum. The Tribe have won their last two games by a combined score of 34-7 thanks in large part to their 17-0 shutout win over a very good New Hampshire team. It was the first time New Hampshire had been shutout since 1995.

Delaware has won three straight including last week’s incredible comeback over Towson. Head coach Dave Brock announced just before the game that starting quarterback Trent Hurley would not play due to an upper-body injury, leaving the team in the hands of backup Trevor Sasek. Down 28-10 to start the fourth quarter, the Blue Hens outscored the Tigers 22-3 in the final frame to seal the 32-31 upset victory.

Typically you do not think of a home field advantage when it comes to the CAA, but in this case, it could prove a major factor. Delaware is 5-0 at home this season while William & Mary is only 1-3 on the road.

Who will be the quarterback for Delaware? Who will win the battle between the Blue Hens’ offense and the Tribe defense? Can Delaware capitalize on the momentum of a big win and the home crowd?

There’s a whole lot to like in this one.

Player to watch: Nico Steriti, RB, junior, New Hampshire

William & Mary showed last week what happens when New Hampshire struggles to move the football on the ground, and it wasn’t pretty. Prior to that game, Steriti averaged 5.6 yards per carry and 83.9 yards per game. Against the Tribe, he rushed for only 13 yards on seven carries. New Hampshire was held to 84 yards rushing and was shutout for the first time since 1995. If they want to rebound this week, they need Steriti to breakout.

The problem? James Madison has the best rushing defense in the CAA.

New Hampshire still managed 228 yards through the air, but it was not enough to even get them on the board. This offense needs its rushing attack in order to be effective. If the Dukes shutdown Steriti, it will be another long day for New Hampshire.

Upset alert: Villanova @ Rhode Island, Sat. 12:30 p.m.

While there may be no question that Villanova is the better team, the Wildcats are coming off a very difficult five-game stretch in which they did not fare very well at all.

Starting on October 5, Villanova played William & Mary, at Towson, at New Hampshire, Maine, and at James Madison. The Wildcats managed to win their first two in that stretch, but dropped their last three and now must pick themselves up to head to Rhode Island.

If this game was at Villanova, Rhody would have a difficult time. Heading to Rhode Island on a three-game losing streak after playing five of the best teams in the conference back-to-back, you have to wonder just how much Villanova has left in the tank.

Don’t be surprised if a sluggish Villanova gets picked off by the Rams.