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Sunday's Word: Canary

It's that time of year again. Although Lehigh isn't playing this week, every week during the season I always end the week with "Sunday's Word", one of my favorite parts of doing this blog. This week's word is "Canary".

When people think of a "Canary", they think of the color yellow, birds or maybe about mobsters turning state's evidence. But I'm thinking of it in terms of a "Canary" in the coal mine - the miners who brought canaries down with them into the caves to test for oxygen. If the canaries died, it was time to exit fast.

It seems to apply in a bunch of areas this weekend.

A lot of hopes of FCS teams died this weekend with some really big blowout games with the best teams in FBS. Appalachian State - the team who, let's get real, put FCS on the map for most of the college football world -- played LSU, the first game on Saturday due to the looming evacuation of much of Louisiana later that evening. The Mountaineers started the game, actually, with a pretty good drive - moving the ball effectively before turning the ball over on downs.

Then the guys with the "Canary"-colored helmets stomped on the throats of Appalachian State. Two plays. The first, a hole through the Mountaineers' line that I could have taken for five yards but LSU RB Charles Scott took for 56. The next play, Scott is in the end zone. Game over - the rest of the game was a formality. (For the record, LSU would romp 41-13.)

FBS teams took out most FCS teams with surprising ease. Georgia smacked Georgia Southern 45-21. Jacksonville State started former LSU QB Ryan Perriloux, but it didn't matter against Georgia Tech - the Yellowjackets romped 41-13. Eastern Washington ultimately was spanked by Texas Tech 49-21. Northern Iowa got hammered by BYU 41-17. The Maine jut flat-out got sunk 46-3. Even Duke - Duke, for God's sakes! - won with shocking ease over James Madison 31-7.

(Hard to see what Lehigh might have learned about Villanova in their game: they got throttled by #8 ranked West Virginia 48-21. )

Goliath never looked better than it did on Saturday. And "Canaries" were dying on FBS fields all day, most times early in the game. Not only that, it was against the best teams in FCS, too. Twelve of the Top 25 teams fell to FBS teams; most over early, most ending in romps.

As FCS fans, haven't we been fooling ourselves? Thinking that James Madison might just be Georgia with a few fewer scholarships? Let's get real: Appalachian State's win last year over Michigan was one for the ages because they simply don't happen very often. Let's get real. A focused Texas Tech can cream out National Champion every year. Let's not pretend that it's any more than that.

The FBS payday bonanza, of course, has been completely absent for Patriot League teams. The reason for this is the fact that in order for a FBS win over an FCS team to count for bowl eligibility, a school needs to offer the equivalent of 56 1/2 scholarships over a span of two years to qualify - and currently, no Patriot League team fits this criteria.

Most of the Patriot League was off this week. However Colgate was not - they faced the Seawolves of Stony Brook in their opener at Kenneth LaValle stadium.

Not all that long ago, Stony Brook just moved into Division I athletics in 2000. In 2005, in their first year eligible for the FCS playoffs, they left the NEC and jumped (starting this year) to the Big South conference. Clearly a marriage of convenience, this transition period as an independent has allowed them to get to the maximum 63 scholarships allowed by FCS this year.

And what's the result of this? Stony Brook 42, Colgate 26 in Week One.

I can hear people now. It's just one game. Colgate's star, senior RB Jordan Scott, wasn't playing. Senior QB Alex Relph got hurt early. Scholarships didn't win the game for Stony Brook, they were simply a better team on this day.

But the impact of this loss cannot be overestimated. Just last year, Stony Brook struggled to put away 1-10 Georgetown. Stony Brook is better than they were recently, but let's not sugarcoat this: it wasn't just a loss, it was a beatdown. This game was 42-6 and had Colgate fans beating their heads on their keyboards through three quarters. The Seawolves put up 444 yards of total offense on the Raiders. Stony Brook scored four straight touchdowns on their first four possessions. Like the "Canaries" from LSU, it was "game over" from minute one.

And this is Colgate! The Raiders, the dark horse pick for the Patriot League title! Colgate, that a few years ago was in the championship game in Chattanooga! With an offensive line that is supposed to make Jordan Scott break rushing records!

Is this loss a "canary" for the rest of the Patriot League season? Have we, in clinging to the old financial aid formulas, lost competitiveness with the rest of FCS? I sure hope not. But the Stony Brook loss by Colgate has made me pause.

Comments

Anonymous said…
While Villanova gave up 48 pts, some were on turnovers and I think a big special team's play. VU actually moved the ball pretty good against WVA and took the opening drive right down the field deep into the redzone, only to have the QB fumble the ball turning into a long return. So we will certainly have our hands full in two weeks...which they have to heal up.

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