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Friday Water Cooler: The Bye Week, And Saints/Eagles

So what are you doing during Lehigh's bye week?

So there I was, trying to make plans to travel up to Holy Cross to watch the Crusaders take on Harvard. I then get an email asking me if I could use an extra ticket to the Eagles' home opener.

Fortunately, he got to me before I could figure out the price of hotel rooms in Worcester, Mass. So I changed my plans for the weekend, instead staying local to take in the other great Patriot League game in the area: Liberty taking on Lafayette, two teams which could make a case for the Top 25 when the game is over.

As some of you may know, going to an Eagles/Saints game for me is such a mixed thing since I am a fan of both teams. Growing up I was a rabid Saints fan - I've seen the Saints play in New Orleans, saw them take on both the Jets and Giants in Giant Stadium, and I've even high-fived WR Quinn Early in a game against the New England Patriots almost a decade before they became the most Hated Team In America. And I've seen the Eagles play the Saints at the Vet - wearing a Saints jersey in the 700 level, and living to tell the tale.

Quite frankly, I've spilled a lot more virtual ink about the Eagles in the past year than the Saints. With Eagles training camp in my backyard - and my wife a rabid Eagles fan - the Eagles dominate my conversations a heck of a lot more.

When I was a kid, the Saints had a great defense and an offense that had a lot more grit than talent. The "Dome Patrol" - Pat Swilling, Rickey Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, and the pride of Montclair State, Sam Mills - were my guys. I loved how they dominated a game, how they loved to hit. They'd win games 10-3 - until the damned 49ers came to town, and Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and (alter) Steve Young would kick our ass.

These Saints are different. The head coach Sean Payton looks like he could kick your ass (never mind TE Jeremy Shockey), but they're all offense these days. Don't get me wrong, I still follow Marques Colston, Drew Brees and all - and I like them - but I still long for those days when our 5 foot nothing linebacker would lay out, say, Vaughn Hebron.

But I'm looking forward to filing a report on the Saints game this weekend, divided loyalties be damned. Besides, I might even get to see Jeff Garcia.

****

Back in the world of the Patriot League and FCS, my latest column in the College Sporting News is out, and it's all about the CAA. Face it: the CAA right now is the top conference in all of FCS, and it's difficult to see how that will change this year.

I pick the Top 25 in that article, and other games of interest around FCS. The game of the week this week is No. 25 Harvard at No. 23 Holy Cross, the only ranked FCS matchup this week. My Patriot League picks from there - as well as bonus picks - are at the end of this blog posting.

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An interesting article in the Hampton Roads Daily Press saw columnist David Teel talk about the death of regional rivalries with William & Mary teams due to the priority of FBS Money games. But what was most interesting was the mention of the Patriot League, which probably tails into a lot of public perception about the league:

Another non-league contest is saved for Virginia Military Institute. The programs met for 65 consecutive seasons before agreeing to a one-year respite in 2009, in part because the Keydets wanted to play a money game of their own, against Army.

"I was told when I got here that we have a special relationship with VMI," said Driscoll, who arrived at William and Mary in 1996.

That leaves Driscoll with one game to rotate. During his tenure he, in concert with Laycock, has scheduled Hampton, Norfolk State, Liberty and Furman, among others.

...

"I've been trying for a long time to get an Ivy League (opponent)," Driscoll said. "We were close with Princeton but couldn't (coordinate) the dates."

Penn is ideal for William and Mary on several fronts. Laycock and his staff recruit extensively in the region — the Tribe roster has 11 players from Pennsylvania and 13 from New Jersey — and appreciate the history of venerable Franklin Field, the Quakers' home stadium.

Also, William and Mary and Penn are comparable academically, with the Quakers providing credible but not intimidating football opposition.

If not the Ivy League, Driscoll would like to arrange games against Patriot League programs such as Bucknell, Lehigh and Lafayette. Again, academic heavyweights and football, at best, middleweights.
Middleweights - at best. Again, this is just the perception of the Patriot League in the wider FCS world.

****

Here are my Patriot League picks this week:

Game of the Week
No. 25 Harvard at No. 23 Holy Cross.
In the past three years, Harvard has always seemed up to the challenge of facing the Crusaders, and while Randolph will get his yards, you wonder if Holy Cross will throw in enough wrinkles to fool the Crimson on defense enough. But what might look like Harvard’s biggest weakness - an unfamiliar offense, and new starters on defense - is actually their strength. Holy Cross will need to adjust - and by the time they do, Harvard will have won their Fitton Fling.

Harvard 34, Holy Cross 31

Liberty at Lafayette. I figured I’d start with the game I’m going to this weekend: a revenge match, as Liberty’s 35-21 win in Lynchburg last year may very well have kept the Flames from the postseason last year. But already this is a different team from that squad; start with the fact that former South Carolina quarterback Tommy Beecher (228 yards passing, 1 touchdown) is helming the Flames. Can head caoch Frank Tavani’s always-stifling defense, led by Mark Leggerio, stop Liberty? I think Lafayette will slow them down, but ultimately the fire of revenge burns brighter.

Preacher Beecher 28, Def Leopards 21

Columbia at Fordham. (The Liberty Cup) This battle between crosstown New York City rivals, inspired by 9/11, is always a huge game on both the Rams’ and Lions’ schedules.

While Ram quarterback John Skelton is eager to erase a bad 41-24 loss to Rhode Island two weeks ago, Columbia senior Austin Knowlin may be the X-factor that gives the Lions a big confidence-boosting win to open their season. “We have to play keep-away and keep him [Skelton] on the bench,” Columbia head football coach Norries Wilson said in the pre-game press conference. They will; and they’ll win.

Blue Boys 24, Red Rums 21

BONUS PICKS:

Colgate at Dartmouth. It remains to be seen how well Colgate does when they don't have a CSN Way pick against them in the national media, though I heavily suspect that Pat Simonds, Greg Sullivan and company will do just fine.

Spotless Raiders 38, Dirty Green 10

Bucknell at Cornell. With a rebuilding Cornell squad, this should be a good game. But Bucknell's inability to score points on offense is troubling enough to take the Big Red in this one.

Big Red Machine...? 30, Firing Blanks 13

Georgetown at Yale. I think the Hoyas will play the Eli tough: but last I checked, you need to score in order to win football games. They won't score enough to win - a third-straight game without an offensive touchdown.

Eli Eli O 28, Hoya Hoya Oh 9

NOTE: Looking over the picks, I have the Patriot League going a lofty 1-5 against the rest of FCS, and 1-4 against the Ivies. Not good.

Comments

Anonymous said…
True fans only have 1 team! A man who roots for 2 teams has no loyalty to either.
Chuck B '92 said…
My wife agrees with you! Believe me when I say that I've been hearing about this all weekend so far.
Anonymous said…
Hopefully, you choose the Saints! The Eagles defense was absolutely dominated.

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