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Six Days to Media Day

Next Thursday, the Patriot League will be hosting their 2008 Football media day, and as always I couldn't be more excited. It's one more indicator that kickoff for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks (at home September 6th versus Drake, 12:30pm) is right around the corner.

I thought for a Friday before media day it might be a good idea to post some of the big Patriot League questions going into the 2008 season.

1. How will Fordham do in 2008 with the bullseye on its back? Oddly for a team who is a returning champion with so many returning players (including junior QB John Skelton), some publications are hesitant to pick the Rams to win the whole thing (in fact, Phil Steele picks them 4th). Why? Is it simply because it will be harder the second time around? Will Forhdam's spread offense be easier to solve when teams are more prepared for it? Or are folks just putting a lot of stock in the defending Patriot League champions' losses to Dayton of the PFL and Bucknell last year?

2. Can Holy Cross win a big game after we lose daylight savings time? The Crusaders, featuring the offensive preseason player of the year senior QB Dominic Randolph, has been nearly unbeatable - in September and early October. However, they've folded down the stretch two straight years in heartbreaking fashion. In 2006, they lost a Patriot League title with a 29-28 fall-from-ahead loss to Colgate on the last game of the season. In 2007, a last-minute interception sealing a 24-21 Fordham victory - and a 31-21 loss to Lafayette the following week nixing any possible at-large playoff possibility. Can they reverse their fortunes during championship time and finally get coach Tom Gilmore Holy Cross' first league championship in seventeen years?

3. Could Colgate take the whole thing by staying retro on us? The leading rusher in FCS last year, senior RB Jordan Scott, had a very rocky offseason and will be suspended for one game this year. But when he's in the game, Colgate promises to be an old-school put-the-rock-in-Scott's-hands sort of team when the game is on the line. Can Scott take another season of 35-40 carries a game - and carry the Raiders to the Patriot League title?

4. Do Patriot League presidents think there is a problem with the existing need-based aid model for football? This offseason has brought change to the way the Patriot League will be computing their academic index (or AI for short) - of which (hopefully) more details will be forthcoming next week. The change in the AI seems to be an acknowledgment that there is/was some sort of problem that needed to be solved in terms of competitiveness within the league and outside the league.

But there is a growing chorus of fans who are wondering if the league is losing its competitiveness with the rest of FCS because of the Patriot League's policy of not offering merit-based aid to football players, not solely because of the AI. With merit-based aid in other Patriot League sports such a wild success - notably men's basketball - athletics administrators have had a hard time justifying why football is so different. But that's not who needs to be convinced: the question is, do the Presidents think that the AI reform "fixes" the problem of competitiveness - or is AI reform only one step on the way to some form of limited merit-based scholarships?

5. Are Lehigh and Lafayette becoming the same team? Both in the unaccustomed role of "dark horse", one team boasts a fearsome defense, and a tough run-oriented offense with no established star. The problem is: the other team could be described in the exact same way.

In the preseason, Lafayette seems to have the edge since Lehigh seems to be having an open tryout at QB while Lafayette at least boasts junior QB Rob Curley who played very well down the stretch in "The Rivalry". If senior RB Matt McGowan can stay healthy this year for the Birds and perform up to his potential, however, Lehigh could have the upper hand - and if either Lafayette or Lehigh get things going on offensively, they both could make a surge at the title.

How will both teams - picked to be #1 and #2, respectively, in last year's preseason media poll - perform now that the bullseye is now firmly off of them and on Fordham, Colgate, and Holy Cross?


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