In a testimony to how evenly matched both of these teams have been over the years, no team has won more than 3 straight against the other since the inception of the Patriot League.
Colgate and Lehigh have faced off 55 times, and the overall record has been, fittingly, close, with Colgate holding a slender 30-24-2 advantage. The last tie came in 1980, a 17-17 tie at Taylor Stadium in which Lehigh's John Whitehead and Colgate's Fred Dunlap faced off as head coach. In a way, that hotly-contested tie sort-of epitomizes the competitiveness of this rivalry today.
Last year, Colgate cruised to a 48-6 victory, one of the more lopsided in the rivalry's recent history. This year's edition is unlikely to be a similar outcome.
Breaking Down Colgate
Writing a Colgate game breakdown and fearless prediction is personally my absolute favorite to write. Why? Because their offensive strategy hasn't changed that much over the last decade, from former head coach Dick Biddle to head coach Dan Hunt.
Although they execute the read option often, frequently with a tight end wide and a blocking fullback to lead the charge, and extremely athletic quarterbacks and running backs to gain yardage, they have also in the past have had an impressive precision passing attack that means opposing defenses can't simply put nine in the box in order to give their running backs nowhere to run.
It's hard to truly gauge where Colgate's offense is, in reality, because though the Raiders are 0-5 against an FBS team (Air Force); two CAA teams that are either in (Villanova) or spent time in (Maine) the Top 25; a third CAA team (William and Mary), and an Ivy League team that has gone 15-1 in their last 16 games (Dartmouth).
Who will start on Saturday for Colgate? We won't know until Saturday at 1:00 PM, most likely, but word has been that Breneman should be healthy in time for league play. Lehigh is preparing as if it's going to be Breneman.
Most years the Raiders rotate through a stable of running backs, but so far this season the rushing load has been shouldered by senior RB Alex Matthews and junior RB Malik Twyman, along with the three different quarterbacks. Unusually for Colgate, they are only averaging 100 yards rushing per game - but that might be more of a function of the Raiders' being behind so often against great competition.
Colgate offensive line has struggled at times, but it's hard to say whether that is from their brutal schedule or injuries. Though their O line will be one of the bigger ones Lehigh will have faced thus far, their line seems thin due to injury. OL Jack Badovinac was on STATS' preseason all-America team.
Colgate plays a base 3-4 that has always had an all-Patriot League level defensive front that is both talented and deep. Last year, Colgate had by any objective measure one of the best defenses in the nation. But they have come crashing back down to earth after their 0-5 start.
Though Colgate's defensive front has always been fearsome, it's their veteran secondary, that was exceptional last season. Led by senior CB Abu Daramy-Swaray and sophomore CB Colin Heard, Colgate still could have the best set of shutdown corners in the league, even on an 0-5 team. Few teams choose to pass Daramy-Swaray's way, and Heard already has 2 interceptions. FS Aidan Gaertner and SS Jordan Jefferson round out the unit.
Last season, senior PK Chris Puzzi was a very good weapon for the Raiders, though this season's 2-for-4 tally doesn't really show what he can do with his leg.
P Ben Amor is a really strong punter, averaging more than 44 yards per boot so far this season.
DB Abu Daramy-Swaray continues to be the primary punt and kickoff returner, a job he has held for four years running now. Last season he had a 77 yard punt return for a touchdown, and he's still very effective on punts with an average of 10 yards per return. Most teams kick away from him on kickoffs, choosing to CB William Gruber instead (who is no slouch himself, averaging more than 20 yards per return).
LFN's Keys to the Game
1. Positive turnover ratio. In order for Lehigh to win this football game, winning the turnover ratio is always a desirable outcome, but it is especially critical against Colgate where their entire gameplan is geared towards making fewer mistakes than you. That means overall taking care of the ball and forcing turnovers, wherever they may happen. Positive - or even - turnover ratio will go a long way towards Lehigh taking this game.
2. Hit gaps. Colgate's discipline running and passing come from creating and hitting gaps, and to stop that Lehigh needs to do a better job than the Raiders plugging gaps and tackling. Bad tackling has doomed more than one Lehigh team vs. Colgate. If the Mountain Hawks can continue their impressive job plugging gaps and stopping the run, I like their chances.
3. Time Of Possession. This game won't be won on big plays, I don't think - it will be won by the team that is more patient. For Lehigh's offense, that means continuing to plug away on offense and being patient, but also holding onto the ball longer and getting sustained drives, however they come about. Merrimack held the ball for more than 36 minutes last week against Lehigh; if Colgate does the same thing, Lehigh will lose.