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Playoff Press Roundup; Editorial; Playoff Predictions

No in-game commentary
Since I'll be covering the game one more time for I-AA.org, there won't be any in-game commentary this weekend. You'll be able to read my diary of the game on I-AA.org on Sunday.
For those of you who won't be able to catch the game live, there will be a few different ways:

Video
WFMZ-TV (channel 69 in the Lehigh Valley) live
Radio:
ESPN Radio 1230 and 1320 AM

On the internet, there is your regular audio broadcast... but... you can also get the video broadcast of the game as well! Not a joke:
Link to Yahoo! Broadcast ($$ required)

Also, VCR alert: for those of you with CSTV, you'll be able to see the Lafayette/Delaware game. Worth a shot to watch that game (see my predictions later for details).

Playoff Press Roundup
Just wanted to add 3 more pieces to my media roundup for the "Redemption Match at Murray Goodman". (I think the Easton Express-Times guys were paid by the word this week):

Easton Express-Times:
Borda Has Arrived As Lehigh Ace
Hawks Looking Forward To Shot At Postseason Redemption
Roanoke Times:
Cobbs Beefs Up JMU Line

Quotes:
"This is a better football team than Villanova," Lehigh coach Pete Lembo said. "I think our kids will have to play our best football of the year to win."

"It gives us a chance to hopefully redeem ourselves in some way," Lembo said, "and put together a performance that's well-representative of what we've done all year in the Patriot League. This is a big, big challenge."

"The team has a great deal to prove," Rath said. "We want to go out there and we want to play our best. We want to go out knowing we gave everything we had."

"This one's for the seniors," Lehigh running back Eric Rath vowed.


"Our goals are still within reach for us to attain," energetic Hawks quarterback Mark Borda said.

"If you've followed us throughout the season, you know last week was a big letdown for us," Kovacs said.... "To have ended the season on that note would have been a horrible thing.
We felt like we were truly given a second life."


[Someone sounds like they've been reading this blog... LOL.]

"I feel some sense of urgency," Kovacs said. "We've been proud of the senior class, for what we accomplished. Last week was not a reflection of our character and how we play. We don't want to be remembered for how we did last week. We're excited to get this chance to redeem ourselves."

"[Frank] Cobbs, listed at 6 foot 1 and 205 pounds when he signed with the Dukes in 2001, will tip the scale at close to 250 pounds when he takes the field for JMU in its first-round Division I-AA playoff game at Lehigh. Cobbs, now a defensive tackle, started eight straight games for the Dukes (9-2) before he suffered a sprained ankle before JMU played host to William and Mary. Held out of last week's game at Towson as something of a precaution, Cobbs has returned to practice and should start."

I mention this last point since all indication is that Frank Cobbs will be back and healthy on Saturday, which will make an already-tough defensive line even tougher.

Editorial
We're now on the eve of another big, meaningful game.

After Saturday, no one thought we should be here. The same old arguments were raised - the Patriot League is too weak, there's no way they belong in the same ballpark as all these other full-scholarship schools. Didn't they almost lose to Yale?

Almost to a man columnists are crying, "Playoff Robbery". Cal Poly played in a tougher conference - beat Montana St. on the road, don't you know. Lehigh doesn't belong here. Cal Poly does.

I-AA columnists are saying that we have "no chance in hell" to win the national championship. That we're some egghead school, somehow on the same par as Columbia football-wise.

Well, isn't that just where we want to be now?

That's where we were in 1998, being sent to Richmond. We won that gave over the A-10 champs 24-23.

That's where we were in 2000, being sent to Macomb, Illinois, where we throttled Western Illinois in front of a few popcorn vendors and their closest friends, 37-7.

In 2001, Hofstra was indignant about going on the road to play us. The A-10 auto bid - on the road? After they went up 14-0, the Hofstra coach was thinking blowout. Well, who ended up winning 27-24 in OT? Lehigh.

Not bad for a bunch of eggheads, eh?

It's now 2004. An A-10 co-champion is now indignant about coming up to Lehigh to play a game. Lehigh doesn't get any respect from the rest of I-AA nation. Sound familiar?

Sounds like a good recipie for a victory to me.

Playoff Predictions
Eastern Washington at Southern Illinois. I am going to go with the #1 team in the nation here. But just. I think the Eagles of Eastern Washington light up their secondary and put a massive scare into the Salukis. But I think the Salukis find a way to win it, maybe with one last bruising run in OT. SIU 44, EWU 38, OT.

Western Kentucky at Sam Houston St. If there is anything I have learned in following the I-AA playoffs, unless the game is at Delaware and the Blue Hens are suiting up Missouri's "B" Team, take the team with the chip on their shoulders. The Hilltoppers take out a Southland team who has struggled with consistency. WKU 37, SHS 14.

Northwestern St. at Montana. Another Southland team that has struggled with consistency, the Demons are rewarded with a trip to Missoula for their first-round game. Look at the weather for a sense of where this one is going to go. In Missoula: Snow showers, high of 31, low of 21. That doesn't sound like Natchitoches weather to me. And that score sounds about right. Montana 31, NW St. 21.

New Hampshire at Georgia Southern. "You've beaten defending I-AA champion Delaware, and beat I-A Rutgers from a BCS conference. What do you get for your efforts?" "We're going to Statesboro, Georgia!" The Wildcats are given a near-impossible task. A chip on UNH's shoulder will not be enough to dethrone the Golden Eagles. Georgia Southern racks up another first-round win at home. GSU 49, UNH 23.

Hampton at William & Mary. An intriguing matchup, involving arguably the best player in I-AA (the Tribe's Lang Campbell) , and the opportunistic offense and defense of Hampton. Two inexperienced playoff teams going at it. As long as the Tribe take care of the ball, I think they win this one, but it's no blowout. W&M 34, Hampton 28.

Lafayette at Delaware. If Hens QB Sonny Riccio has a breakout day against the Leopard secondary, they will win this one going away. But will he? He's only had one breakout game all year against Maine. Delaware has the talent to blow away Lafayette. But I think that Lafayette is not an easy team to coach against, and I think they have the stuff to send seismic shockwaves through I-AA Nation. The Hens don't get the offense going, a Lafayette "O" Line (pumped up to the max by all the mocking press out there) wears out the Hen defense, keeps it close in the 4th quarter, and escapes with a win. You heard it here first. Lafayette 17, Delaware 14.

Jacksonville St. at Furman. Rush-happy Jacksonville St. runs into a buzzsaw at Furman, argualbly the best team in I-AA right now. They don't have the horses to keep this game close. The Paladins in the biggest first-round win. Furman 44, JSU 17.

Just to finalize my final playoff picks:

Pre-playoff predictions Round 2:
Furman over Lehigh
William & Mary over Lafayette

Georgia Southern over Montana
Western Kentucky over Southern Illinois

Semi-final predicitons:
Furman over William & Mary
Georgia Southern over Western Kentucky

National Champs: Georgia Southern

That's it. Next thing you'll hear from me is writing about a win, or wrapping up the season.

GO LEHIGH!

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