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Sunday's Word: Numbers

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of the TV show that, well, has most of the same letters as this "Sunday's Word." But it's a weekend in the Patriot League that begs for some analysis of the "numbers" that have been generated about Patriot League teams - not to mention that it's the halfway point of the FCS college football season.

This week the outfit I write for, the College Sporting News, released the Gridiron Power Index, or GPI. The GPI is an index, comprised of three human polls (Any Given Saturday, The Sports Network, and the Coaches' Poll), and seven computer polls (including two very well known computer rankings, Massey and Sagarin, amoung others). From these ten inputs the index comes up with what could be considered the most fair rating of all FCS teams around - it's known as a tool that members of the FCS subcommittee can use in order to choose at-large teams for the FCS playoffs.

It ranks all FCS teams from 1 to 125. And the "numbers" it shows for the Patriot League are not pretty.

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For Lehigh specifically (ranked No. 92 in the GPI), their only win was against Georgetown (No. 119) this weekend. And in the first five weeks of the season, the Mountain Hawks lost to Central Connecticut State (No. 43), Villanova (No. 3), Princeton (No. 99) and Harvard (No. 37).

Not great, of course. But look around the Patriot League, and the numbers get a bit more grim for the league as a whole as well.

For starters, the Patriot League as a whole is weighted 10th in all of FCS, only above the MEAC, NEC, Pioneer Football League, and SWAC. Just above the Patriot League lies the Ivy League, Big South, and OVC - three conferences which just last year were behind the Patriot League overall.

Last week, Bucknell (No. 104) lost to Penn (No. 54) who was starting their fourth-string quarterback. Colgate (No. 23) was brought to the brink by Princeton (No. 99). Lafayette (No. 34) had to rely on a last-second score to beat Columbia (No. 58). And Holy Cross (No. 27) was upset by Brown (No. 54).

This weekend would be bad enough. But the GPI "numbers" over the course of the year don't look much better, either.

Out of conference, the whole league only has two wins over FCS teams listed in the GPI top 50: Colgate over Stony Brook (No. 50) and Holy Cross over Harvard (No. 37). Overall, the league is 2-5 over Top 50 GPI teams; three of those losses came from Lehigh.

One key "number" is one: as in only one Patriot League team has a win over a CAA school. Unfortunately, that win is Holy Cross' over winless Northeastern (No. 93). Aside from Lehigh's loss against Villanova, there is also Fordham's loss to Rhode Island (No. 61).

The Patriot League is also 1-1 against the Big South. Colgate beat Stony Brook, while Lafayette lost to Liberty (No. 32).

Five Patriot League teams were beaten by teams not in the GPI Top 50. Colgate's 6-0 record featured five wins over teams not in the Top 50, and their best win was against No. 50. Lafayette is 4-1, but all four wins were against teams not in the Top 50 and their best win was against No. 52 (Penn).

Georgetown, of course, is winless, with the lowlight is a loss to Howard (No. 96). Bucknell has not beaten a single team above No. 100 in the GPI, and lost to Duquesne (No. 101). Lehigh's only win was against Georgetown, and of course they lost to Princeton (No. 99). Fordham's second win of the year came against Bryant (No. 77), which was better than the come-from-behind win against Old Dominion (No. 105), an independent program loaded with freshmen in the first year of football after 50 years not fielding a team. The "bright spot" is that their worst loss was "only" to the No. 61 team in the GPI, Rhode Island.

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There is no way to massage these "numbers" to make them look good. Especially in the context that not all that long ago Patriot League teams weren't just beating up on the sisters of the poor: they were giving teams like Appalachian State, Delaware and UMass headaches, not to mention Liberty, Harvard, and Brown.

And it's very important to realize that it's not just one team or a few teams in the league. It's the entire Patriot League. Lehigh's struggles have been well documented here, but when Colgate struggles on national television versus Princeton and Holy Cross loses to a team they haven't lost to in ten years, that's definitely a sign that there's a bigger problem.

Look closer. In those two wins over Top 50 GPI teams. Holy Cross needed a late turnover to beat Harvard, and Colgate's 23-13 win over Stony Brook didn't exactly bring the house down. Go further. Lafayette beat two teams in the Top 60 GPI - Penn and Columbia - and they both were won in the last seconds or overtime.

That means that no Patriot League team has beaten a team in the top half of the GPI by more than two touchdowns.

These "numbers" unfortunately, don't lie.

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