clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Picking the Big 12: Week Eleven. Also, Colonial Athletic Association preview.

Last year's Walter Payton Award winner is back. Hi there, Villanova. You're pretty.

John Robertson is back, and Villanova is scary.
John Robertson is back, and Villanova is scary.
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Lead

Griding into November, we are, as we plunge into the gory details of week eleven of the Big 12 schedule. As usual, only one of our five games is actually in doubt, but today you get to make fun of one staffer and threaten a second with pitchforks.

Oklahoma at Baylor

This was another one of those strange games where you'd think someone would dissent from the group, but nope. By an 11-0 margin, the staff is united in their belief that Oklahoma is going to head back up I-35 disappointed, angry, and no longer undefeated.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State

Oklahoma State at Iowa State? Well, obviously everyone's in agtreement that the Cowboys are going to-- wait. PurpleBrunette? What's the deal here, woman? You think this is 2011 or something? Ten of us picked the Cowboys; Peanut Butter picks the Clones.

Kansas at TCU

Hah. Hahahah. Hahahahahaha. Yeah, right. 11-0 Frogs.

Kansas State at Texas Tech

Here we have another 10-1 vote, with everyone but Luke displaying their loyalty to the cause. We're going to have to see just what's making my co-prognisticator tick here. Anyone have some tortillas handy? Maybe a bag of dust and a small, handheld fan? A virtual-reality program designed to simulate 23 hours of driving through a flat arid waste?

Texas at West Virginia

And now we come down to this. Derek, Pan, JT, wildcat00, and PB picked Texas. Luke, Bracket, Nugget, KSUEMAW!, and Pervis picked West Virginia. So once again, the boss has to sigh heavily and make a decision for all. Thanks, guys.

Note: this is the last time this happens.

My opinion on this could change drastically between now and even Halloween. But right now, I think Charlie Strong will get Texas on the right track at some point this fall, and that point's going to be before this game. Meanwhile, West Virginia is just so schizophrenic as a member of this conference that I certainly can't depend on them to beat the Horns, even at home. So I'm taking Texas, which means we're all taking Texas.

And now, our unbeatens are down to a pair, Oklahoma is squabbling over third place, and K-State and Texas are lodged in the middle. We're left with this:

BotC's Projected Big 12 Standings after Week Eleven
TCU 10-0 (7-0)
Baylor 9-0 (6-0)
Oklahoma 9-1 (6-1)
Oklahoma State 9-1 (6-1)
Texas 5-5 (3-4)
Kansas State 5-4 (2-4)
Texas Tech 4-7 (2-6)
West Virginia 4-5 (1-5)
Iowa State 3-7 (1-6)
Kansas 0-10 (0-7)

Colonial Athletic Association Preview

2014 Standings and Info
3 University of New Hampshire Wildcats Durham NH 8-0 12-2
7 Villanova University Wildcats Villanova PA 7-1 11-3
18 James Madison University Dukes Harrisonburg VA 6-2 9-4
16 University of Richmond Spiders Richmond VA 5-3 9-5
rv The College of William & Mary Tribe Williamsburg VA 4-4 7-5
SUNY at Stony Brook Sea Wolves Stony Brook NY 4-4 5-7
University of Delaware Blue Hens Newark DE 4-4 6-6
University of Maine Black Bears Orono ME 4-4 5-6
rv SUNY at Albany Great Danes Albany NY 3-5 7-5
Towson University Tigers Towson MD 2-6 4-8
University of Rhode Island Rams Kingston RI 1-7 1-11
Elon University Phoenix Elon NC 0-8 1-11

The CAA is undergoing a bit of a perceptual shift now that it's settled back down after a brief and turbulent realignment. Massachusetts is gone; Old Dominion and Georgia State were here and then weren't in the blink of an eye. Now it's Stony Brook, Albany, and Elon joining the nine holdovers, and that's changed the complexion of things. No longer is the CAA an incredibly deep league with seven or eight teams threatening to crash the post-season party; instead it's just a really good league with three or four teams each year presenting credible challenges for a national title. Less powerful top to almost-bottom; more powerful at the top.

And nothing indicated this more clearly than the respect afforded New Hampshire for running the table last autumn. To those who don't follow FCS closely, the fact that the #1 team in the nation as the playoffs began was not North Dakota State might be a surprise. Instead, it was New Hampshire, and they were only prevented from a shot at North Dakota State when they lost by a field goal at home to Illinois State in the semifinals.

Villanova, Richmond, and James Madison joined the Wildcats in the post-season, all but James Madison winning at least one playoff game. The absence of three teams which can usually be counted on to make the field only further illustrates the new face of the conference; they're now eating their own at a level they didn't previously.

One important difference between the CAA and all other FCS conference save the Ivy: you can actually see them on television on a regular basis. The conference is a full partner with NBC Sports (the official conference blog even hosted by the NBC Sports web site), and the league will have four games aired on NBCSN with an additional eleven on the Comcast Sports Network affiliates -- CSN Mid-Atlantic, CSN Philadelphia, CSN New England, and SNY. So those of you with robust sports packages through your television provider are in luck. Another nine CAA games will be carried on the American Sports Network, a fledgling network of terrestrial stations, though it should be noted those games might be preempted by other network programming outside the CAA footprint. In Kansas City, ASN is on KMCI (channel 38); in Manhattan it's carried on Cox Sports Television; in Wichita it's all over the place, but primarily on KMTW. ASN will carry games from many FCS conferences, so worth checking out on your schedule if you're an inveterate channel-flipper on Saturdays.

It's not New Hampshire that's predicted to win the league this fall, but Villanova. The Philly Wildcats picked up 14 first place votes in the combined coaches/SIDs poll. James Madison, picked second, split the remaining ten votes evenly with the defending champions, who finished third. Actual point totals aren't available; the full predicted order of finish is reflected below.


All-CAA selections (total, gone/returning): 10 (6/4)

Preseason selections: 2

Key losses: RBs Kevin Monangai (1138 yards/12 TDs) and Austin Medley (356/4), WR Poppy Livers (987/9), OL Vince Kowalski, DL Pat Williams (12 TFL), DB Joe Sarnese (4 INT/1 TD)

Key returnees (preseason selections in italics): All-American QB John Robertson (2845 yards, 35 TD/3 INT; 1078/11 rushing), RB/KR Gary Underwood (343/4; 25.6 avg KOR), WR Kevin Gulyas (677/9), LBs Don Cherry (134 tackles/21.5 TFL/10 sacks) and Dillon Lucas (11 TFL), DBs Jason Ceneus (5 INT) and Matt McCann (9 TFL)

Incoming FBS transfers: DL Bryan Osei (Temple)

Villanova may have been the best team in the CAA last year, despite New Hampshire's outright championship. Consider: the Wildcats lost their opening game -- in two overtimes to Syracuse, and the only reason it didn't go to a third overtime was Villanova's decision to go for two and the win rather than just kicking an extra point to tie. They didn't just win a moral victory but a testicular one as well. The second loss of the season? A 10-9 loss at Richmond. And their third loss was a quarterfinal defeat to Sam Houston State by only three points. Eight points separated Villanova from 11-3 and 14-0.

They aren't going to get worse in 2015. Robertson, the winner of everything (Offensive POY, preseason Offensive POY, and the Walter Payton Award as the best offensive player in FCS), returns to lead the offense. Last year, ten players had over 100 yards receiving; some are gone, including leading man Livers, but Robertson will have plenty of targets. Someone will need to step up and fill Monangai's shows, however, as Robertson can't handle all the rushing alone.

Defensively, Villanova will continue to excel. Williams and Sarnese are losses the Wildcats can handle with the return of Cherry, named preseason Defensive POY. The returning players defensive line weren't individual standouts, but were solid; the back seven will be a terror. Getting through the CAA is a gauntlet, but Villanova is as well-positioned to do so as any team has been in years, New Hampshire notwithstanding.

James Madison

All-CAA selections: 7 (4/3)

Preseason selections: 2

Key losses: RB Jauan Latney (692/7), WRs Daniel Brown (606/7) and DeAndre Smith (547/8), DL Sage Harold (23.5 TFL/13.5 sacks), LB Brandon Lee (10.5 TFL/7 sacks), DB Dean Marlowe (96 T/4 INT)

Key returnees: QB Vad Lee (3462, 30/7; 826 rushing), RB Khalid Abdullah (547/3), WR Brandon Ravenal (535/5), TE Deane Cheatham (453/2), OL Mitch Kirsch, LB Kyre Hawkins (97 T), DB Taylor Reynolds (4 INT)

Incoming FBS transfers: none this year

A rarity to be sure: Vad Lee was the starting quarterback at Georgia Tech, was not in any sort of trouble, and transferred to an FCS school to finish his final two years. The Dukes are hoping for a better payoff than they got last year, a first-round playoff loss to Liberty. JMU will have some work to do, however. They've lost their leading non-Lee rusher, two leading receivers, and pretty much everyone consistently able to get into opposing backfields. There's still talent returning in all of those positions (including former K-State DL Xavier Gates), but it's too early in Everett Withers' career as a head coach to assume he can just reload. Lee will carry the team, and the playoffs are extremely likely. The Dukes are going to have a battle on their hands for second place, however.

New Hampshire

All-CAA selections: 12 (9/3)

Preseason selections: 3

Key losses: QB Andy Vailas (1149, 10/4; 332/4 rushing), RBs Jimmy Owens (638/8) and Nico Steriti (554/14), All-American WR R.J. Harris (1551/15), TE Harold Spears (838/4), OL Mike Coccia, DLs Cody Muller (13 TFL/10 sacks), Matt Kaplan (12 TFL/6 sacks), Brian Ciccone (8 TFL/5.5 sacks), and Robbie Zauck (7.5 TFL/4.5 sacks), P Brad Prasky (43.1 avg)

Key returnees: QB Sean Goldrich (2391, 16/6; 311/9 rushing), RB/KR Dalton Crossan (66/0; 32.4 avg KR), WR Jared Allison (240/0), OL Tad McNeely, LB Akil Anderson (82 T/8 TFL), DB/PR Casey DeAndrade

Incoming FBS transfers: none -- UNH leans on New England prep schools

New Hampshire's week one drubbing by Toledo serves, more than anything, to cause one to ask how Toledo lost to Iowa State. After that loss, UNH reeled off 12 straight wins before running into Illinois State. But in fairness, New Hampshire's schedule was sketchy. Their non-conference FCS games were against Lehigh -- a shade of its former self -- and Dartmouth, an Ivy. In the conference schedule, the Wildcats managed to dodge Villanova and James Madison (as well as Towson); after dispatching Fordham in the second round, the Wildcats almost lost to Chattanooga. On the other hand, New Hampshire pretty much beat the crud out of everyone else they did beat, save Richmond.

None of that is why they're not expected to repeat. It's the losses, and they are huge. Goldrich is the only player left on the roster who ran for more than 200 yards last year. Allison is the only returning player who had over 200 yards receiving. In Vailas, the Wildcats had an adequate backup to Goldrich, who was frequently banged up; he's gone now. The one-two punch of Owens and Steritti will be hard to replace; Harris will be nearly impossible. And on the other side of the ball, the entire defensive line -- responsible for 40.5 TFL and 26 sacks -- is no longer in Durham.

Sean McDonnell has earned a lot of leeway, and the benefit of the doubt. He'll put the Wildcats back together, and they're still being well-regarded (ranked 7th/9th in preseason polls). UNH has the longest current streak of playoff appearances in FCS with 11. But last year was the coming together of all the right parts at the right time, and they're almost all gone now. It's up to the underclassmen now.

And at home, they're going to have to contend with another season of stadium construction. Last year, the home-side seating was replaced and expanded; this summer the visitor-side seating was removed completely to make room for the new home-side pavilion. So this year, everyone will have to sit on the east side of the field. The new facilities, designed by our old friends over at Populous, will be completed next summer. The feel of the new construction is almost like that of a race course, and the renderings indicate a fairly unique visualization, which is worth a look if you're into stadium design.

William & Mary

All-CAA selections: 10 (6/4)

Preseason selections: 4

Key losses: FB Darnell Laws, WRs Tre McBride (809/4) and Sean Ballard (487/3), All-American DL Mike Reilly (12 TFL/11 sacks), LB Airek Green (9 TFL), K John Carpenter (18-23 FG/24-24 PAT)

Key returnees: QB Steve Cluley (2048, 11/4), RBs Mikal Abdul Saboor (1266/12) and Kendell Anderson (314/5), WR/KR DeVonte Dedmon (300/1; 30.0 avg KR), OL Andrew Jones, LB Luke Rhodes (93 T/7.5 TFL), DB DeAndrew Houston-Carson

Incoming FBS transfers: DB Shamir Bearfield (Temple), K/P Cory Huddleston (Pitt)

The CAA is tough, and William & Mary proves it. The Tribe were a good team last year, sporting the league's Defensive and Special Team Players of the Year. But losses to the four playoff teams and to Virginia Tech left them with a 7-5 mark and a relaxing December. The running game won't be impacted by graduation, but Cluley's going to have to find some friends to play catch with. The Tribe have always been a defense-first squad, though, and the depth behind Reilly and Green are an indication that their loss won't be too devastating. Still, The College is going to have to figure out a way to get past one of the four horsemen. The coaches seem to think Richmond will be that victim; New Hampshire may well be within the Tribe's sights as well.


All-CAA selections: 12 (7/5)

Preseason selections: 4

Key losses: QBa Michael Strauss (2876, 22/10) and Michael Rocco (1451, 4/12), WR Rashad Ponder (777/1), DL Justin Williamson (9 TFL/7 sacks), LB Eric Wright (93 T/7 TFL)

Key returnees: RBs Seth Fisher (777/12) and Jacobi Green (634/4), WRs Reggie Diggs (1157/7) and Brian Brown (1089/4), DL Evan Kelly (6 sacks), LB Omar Howard (92 T), K Peter Yoder

Incoming FBS transfers: TE Garrett Hudson (North Carolina), LB David Norris (UAB), DL Devin Cook (Pitt), DBs Kameron Jackson (North Carolina) and Lemond Johnson (Tennessee)

Top two rushers returning? Check. Top two receivers returning? Check. Starting quarterback? Uh-oh. Redshirt sophomore Kyle Lauletta appears set to take over under center, and his performance -- as well as that of a reworked offensive line -- will be important keys to whether the Spiders return to the playoffs or stew in the middle of the CAA standings. Last year's explosive offense was supported by a relatively stingy defense, the majority of which returns, although its two best players don't.


All-CAA selections: 7 (4/3)

Preseason selections: 3

Key losses: QB Trent Hurley (2275, 13/14), WRs Michael Johnson (830/1) and Jerel Harrison (488/4), TE Nick Boyle (304/4), DL Derrick Saulsberry (13.5 TFL/7 sacks), LB Patrick Callaway (78 T), DB David Mackall (84 T)

Key returnees: RBs Wes Hills (952/6) and Jalen Randolph (622/9), WR Diante Cherry (283/1), OL Ben Curtis, DLs Blaine Woodson (51 T/11 TFL/8.5 sacks) and Vince Hollerman (7 TFL/5 sacks), P Eric Enderson (44.9 avg)

Incoming FBS transfers: WR John Klingerman (Bowling Green)

This is not your daddy's Delaware, and things just haven't been the same since K.C. Keeler departed for Sam Houston State in 2013. Delaware has only managed go to 13-12 under Dave Brock, and things aren't going to improve much this year. In fact, they might plummet down the rabbit hole.

Junior Blake Rankin and redshirt freshman Joe Walker are batting for the starting job under center, but the "highlight" of Delaware's most recent scrimmage was five interceptions, so that's probably not working out as well as anyone would like. The Hens will probably be able to run the ball effectively enough to give the team a chance to win games. The defense took some hits, and while they were very effective against the pass, holding opponents to under 200 yards a game, they were also porous against the run, allowing 191. Woodson was a bright spot, earning CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

It could be a long season in Newark, and Brock's seat could be getting a little toasty.


All-CAA selections: 5 (2/3)

Preseason selections: 3

Key losses: WR/KR Damarr Aultman (498/2)

Key returnees: QBs Dan Collins (908, 9/2) and Drew Belcher (740, 3/3; 312/2 rushing), RB Nigel Beckford (471/5), FB Jeremy Salmon (288/1 receiving), WR Jordan Dunn (292/3), OL Bruce Johnson, DLs Trevor Bates (9 TFL/5.5 sacks) and Patrick Ricard (9.5 TFL), LBs Christophe Mulumba Tshima (95 T/8 TFL) and Zachary Hume (9.5 TFL/5.5 sacks)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

Maine has a really great defense. The Black Bears only gave up 317 yards a game, holding opponents to 21.3 points per outing. The offense, on the other hand, was awful. 259 yards and 16.4 points per contest awful. But it's a young team with room to grow; a ton of returning starters were freshmen last year. Maine could surprise, or they could remain somewhat stagnant.

Stony Brook

All-CAA selections: 10 (3/7)

Preseason selections: 2

Key losses: WR Adrian Coxson (664/6), TE Will Tye (495/5), DBs Davonte Anderson (4 INT) and Christian Ricard (92 T/21 TFL/9 sacks)

Key returnees: QB Conor Bednarski (1327, 9/7), RB Stacey Bedell (1070/9), WR Donavin Washington (332/0), DLs Victor Ochi (16.5 TFL/11 sacks) and Aaron Thompson (11 TFL), LBs Rahim Cassell (9 TFL) and Julian Quintin (8 TFL), DB Naim Cheeseboro (76 T)

Incoming FBS transfers: WR Tim Keith (Western Michigan, grad), DL Ryan Sloan (Syracuse, grad), DB Marquise Dixon (Oregon, grad)

The Seawolves, who just a couple of years ago were the Next Big Thing in the FCS ranks, have fallen. There was little excitement at your average Stony Brook game last year; the only time either team managed to score 30 points was the Seawolves win over Rhode Island. Stony Brook scored 18 points and allowed 15.3 per game. Talk about grinding.

Part of that success was a swarming defense which racked up 112 tackles for loss on the season; nearly 15% of opposition plays resulted in a loss of yardage. That's one reason to ignore what's normally a red flag, the prevalence of defensive backs among the leading tacklers. The most productive parts of the front seven are back, although the secondary suffered serious damage with the graduations of Anderson and Ricard. Dixon may help there, joining fellow former Duck Cassell in the defensive backfield. Offensively, the Seawolves should be about where they were last year, with perhaps some growth. Bedell, formerly at Massachusetts, anchors that offense with a dependable running game. They're not getting back to the playoffs, but they could put together a solid season.


All-CAA selections: 6 (3/3)

Preseason selections: 2

Key losses: WR Spencer Wilkins (500/2), WR/RS Derrick Joseph (303/0; 18.4 avg PR/1 TD), DL Ryan Delaire (14.5 TFL/11 sacks) and Drew Cheripko (10.5 TFL/6 sacks), DB Tye Smith

Key returnees: QB Connor Frasier (1499, 9/8; 475/2), RB Darius Victor (1305/12), WR Andre Dessenberg (236/3), DL Jon Desir, LB James Simms (99 T/7 TFL), PR Donnell Lewis

Incoming FBS transfers: WR Jacquille Veii (Maryland), DL Kanyia Anderson (Old Dominion), DBs Nico Law (Iowa) and Troy Jeter (Southern Miss)

It's hard to believe, but just 20 months ago Towson was playing North Dakota State for the national championship. Of course, that was Steven West's final game, too...

Last year, the problem was injuries and inexperience. The defense was still solid, but the offense struggled mightily, putting up fewer than 300 yards and only 16 points a game. This year, if the offense remains unscathed, it should be fairly workable. Brian Dowling returns after missing 2014 with an injury; he had 419 yards and a touchdown in 2013. On defense, Desir will need some help up front, but there's more talent in the back seven if everyone remains healthy this year. Law came in from Iowa last year, but redshirted. Rob Ambrose is a good coach, and if he has the pieces to move around, Towson could rebound.


All-CAA selections: 5 (2/3)

Preseason selections: 1

Key losses: QB Will Fiacchi (2636, 24/8), RB Omar Osbourne (1211/7), WR Cole King (626/7), TE Brian Parker (500/5), LB Christian Dorsey (111 T), DB T.J. Idowu (86 T)

Key returnees: RB Andre Martin (215/0), WRs Josh Gontarek (687/8) and Brad Harris (448/2), OL Kevin Malloy, LB Mike Nicastro (120 T), DBs Kyle Sakowski (92 T/4 INT) and Rayshan Clark (17 PD), K Patrick Toole

Incoming FBS transfers: QB D.J. Crook (Penn State)

Albany was 7-5 last year. Why are they picked so low? Just look at the losses. The offense has been eviscerated except for Offensive Rookie of the Year Gontarek. Crook will step in fresh from Mount Nittany as the Great Danes' new starting quarterback. Albany is going to need production from Martin (or someone else), and the front seven outside of Nicastro is questionable. If things fall into place, a winning season isn't out of the question, but it's not looking bright.

Rhode Island

All-CAA selections: 5 (3/2)

Preseason selections: 1

Key losses: RB Lyle McCombs (663/5), WR Robbie Jackson (435/2), H-B Justin Favreau, LB Andrew Bose (124 T/14.5 TFL), DB Donovan Walker (100 T)

Key returnees: RB Harold Cooper (417/0), OL Tyler Catalina, LB Adam Parker (102 T), DB Tim Wienclaw (96 T/7.5 TFL), KR Myles Holmes (21.8 avg KOR/1 TD)

Incoming FBS transfers: none

We're not bothering to list any of Rhode Island's quarterbacks from last year. They were all bad, and JUCO transfer Paul Mroz is the new starter anyway. Good luck to him, because he's got little help. This team was horrible on both sides of the ball, and only a final-week win over injury-riddled Towson spared them from a winless season. There's nothing standing in the way of that this fall, either.


All-CAA selections: 4 (3/1)

Preseason selections: 1

Key losses: QB Mike Quinn (2436, 11/16), WRs Kierre Brown (686/4) and Andre Davis (424/2), LB Jonathan Spain (121 T/9 TFL)

Key returnees: RB Tracey Coppedge (663/1), WR Demitri Allison (525/2), LB John Silas (100 T/7 TFL), DBs Chris Blair (98 T) and Julius Moore (4 INT)

Incoming FBS transfers: RB Nick Theos (Navy), DL Nic Johnson (Appalachian State)

The quarterback battle is between freshman Daniel Thompson and redshirt freshmen Conor Hughes and Connor Christiansen. Blair, the best player on the squad, came over from Ball State last year.

The only thing that saved Elon from a winless season was getting to play UNC-Charlotte in their inaugural year of football. On paper, they're actually better than Rhode Island, but their schedule is a bit worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it. Harder, okay? Suffice it to say that if Elon and Rhode Island actually played this year, Elon would probably be picked ahead of them. As it is, they might both go 0-12. Ooof.

Game of the Year

Villanova visits James Madison on November 21 to wrap the regular season, and the winner is probably your 2015 CAA champion.


We'll move on to Week Twelve of our Big 12 picks, and if you're already looking ahead at the schedule we'll just warn you now that it is not, in fact, four clean sweeps. And then... drum roll, please... we will finally finish our small-college previews with the last of the FCS conferences, the Big South.

And then your benevolent despot will retire to his chambers for several days of being fed grapes and massaged by his flotilla of... no, that won't happen. There's still work to be done here.