This past Wednesday was Patriot League media day for the 2004 season. First the important news: In the pre-season coaches' poll, Lehigh is picked to finish second:
Patriot League Preseason Poll
Team (# first place votes) Points
1. Colgate (12) 72
2. LEHIGH (2) 59
3. Fordham 51
4. Bucknell 40
5. Lafayette 26
T6. Georgetown 23
T6. Holy Cross 23
Lehigh Football Nation's take on this is: I'm not sure if Lafayette's fifth-place showing in this poll is a reflection of the strength of the Patriot League this year, but to me they have the potential to be a surprising team this year. I'm not saying they will win the title, but they don't seem to me like a fifth-place team. Just a hunch.
Here's some media writeups of Patriot League Media Day:
PatriotLeague.com: Patriot League Announces Football Preseason Poll And Honors
Lehighsports.com: Six National Polls place Lehigh in Preseason Top 25:
Morning Call: Hoping Colgate's success will brighten PL's fortunes
Express-Times: Lehigh chosen among league's elite teams for 2004
Times-Shamrock: Patriot League Story [Bucknell]
Here are the highlights from all 4 articles:
"League powers Lehigh and Colgate both found themselves ranked in all six major Division I-AA preseason polls -- an honor Patriot League directors were quick to cite Tuesday during the league's annual Media Day luncheon at Green Pond Country Club... But Lehigh coach Pete Lembo and Colgate coach Dick Biddle are more concerned about where their teams stand in December rather than August. 'From a program standpoint and from the standpoint of visibility for the university, we're very pleased,' Lembo said. 'At the same time, preseason polls don't win games for you.'... 'It adds an awful lot of pressure,' Biddle said.
"'We're pleased to be ranked,' said Lembo, the nation's second-youngest Division I head coach who begins his fourth season with the Mountain Hawks. 'We certainly appreciate the ongoing respect that we're getting on a national level. We certainly appreciate the recognition. I think that's a product of the last six years... 'We also know you still have to show up every Saturday and be at your best.'
"Lehigh’s four senior captains and head coach Pete Lembo were in attendance to look ahead to the season opener, barely a month away... 'If you're on the bubble as we were last year, a lot of it is outside your control and that's why Colgate doing so well will hopefully help the entire league,' Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. 'You still worry about what you can control, and what we can control is winning the league title and getting the automatic bid... The Villanova game will be a big one, but we're used to playing big games early in the season. People tend to look at who we didn't beat last year, but in Week 2, we beat the No. 9 ranked team in the country . So, we're used to high-pressure games early.'"
I hasten to add to the end of this, in three of the past 4 years Lehigh has scheduled challenging early games (all wins):
2003: Fordham (then-#9, CSTV Game of the Week)
2002: Buffalo (1-A)
2000: Wofford (SoCon), Penn (ranked at the time, Ivy League Champs)
Note to the team this year: the way these games were won were through an all-out team effort on both sides of the ball. That's what will be necessary against Villanova, who will be a Top 10 team when you face them the second weekend in September.
The view from the Hawk's Nest
First and foremost, it's Lehigh Football Nation's opinion that the pre-season polls, while fun, seem to be largely based on looking at last year's finish and re-packaging it as a "pre-season poll". For example, last year Fordham was widely picked to defend their Patriot League title over Colgate and Lehigh (picked to finish a DISTANT third). Well, how did that one turn out? By late October, Fordham was essentially out of the title and playoff hunt, Lehigh and Colgate were battling for the title, and Colgate was rolling through their dream season, with the PL title and a deep run in the 1-AA playoffs.
Having said all that, if speculation were a crime, I would have been locked up long ago, and it gives all the 1-AA columnists something to chew on over the coming month, including yours truly.
Here at the nest, I remember way back when (back in the "olden days" when I was attending Lehigh, when the only ranking system in 1-AA was in the Tuesday's print version of the USA Today. (I also remember when it was unheard of for a Patriot League school to be ranked there -- how times have changed.)
Nowadays, there are a dizzying array of polls to consult. The three magazines that cover college football (Athlon, Street & Smith's, and Lindy's) have pre-season polls. Plus, there are so many online rankings that I will only list a few:
The Sports Network (Tony Moss' preview): http://www.sportsnetwork.com/default.asp?c=sportsnetwork&page=/cfoot2/news/AGN3332712.htm
USA Today/ESPN (not updated yet for 2004): http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/iaapoll.htm
I-aa.org (consolidated from print, and AnyGivenSunday.com): http://www.i-aa.org/article.asp?articleid=57962
I-aa.com (consolidated from print, and The SportsNetwork): http://www.i-aa.com/news/article_3582.shtml
Dizzy yet? I sure am. However, it is great to see that in all of these polls, Lehigh is nationally ranked.
Street & Smith's: #25
Sports Network: #17
Kudos to Dopke.com - the only ranking system to bravely have Lehigh finish ahead of both Colgate and Georgia Southern. (If they keep ranking Lehigh this high, I'll have to make them the "official" ranking system of LehighFootballNation.com!)
Final thoughts from the nest:
* Opening day is now exactly 30 days away against Stony Brook. Can you feel the excitement?
* Lehigh's training camp starts next week, once those other "dirty birds" leave South Mountain.
* How successful was Patriot League media day? They got more articles in print and posted to the web, including this blog, than probably ever before.