In a CAA Football full of experienced teams, road games are going to be a bear.
The Maine Black Bears even confirm the notion.
Despite being the second largest of the 13 FCS conferences, only two of the 12 CAA teams were below .500 at home in the conference. That tied for the national low.
With everybody lining up behind James Madison, here are five bold CAA predictions for the upcoming season:
The CAA is the strongest conference in the FCS
Annually butting heads with the Missouri Valley Football Conference for the mythical title of “strongest conference in the FCS,” the CAA may have an upper hand this season. The Missouri Valley has the best program -- North Dakota State, which is gunning for a record seventh FCS title -- but the CAA may have better depth this season. James Madison, the 2016 national champ and runner-up last season, is the clear No. 2 to the Bison heading into the new campaign. New Hampshire, Elon, Delaware, Stony Brook and a rebounding Villanova are talented enough to push into the top 10. Perennial power Richmond also takes exception if not included in that group.
James Madison’s CAA winning streak will end
The Dukes have gone 8-0 in CAA games in each of their two seasons under head coach Mike Houston and their conference winning streak is 18 since 2015. It surely will end during a brutal five-game stretch of Richmond (road), Elon, Villanova (road), Stony Brook and New Hampshire (road). The guess here is Villanova, which was a mere 5-6 during an injury-riddled 2017 season.
Delaware will be back in the playoffs finally
Blue Hens fans are desperate for their team to get back to the FCS playoffs. The 2003 FCS champion and three-time finalist has gone an unfathomable seven consecutive years sitting on the playoff sideline, but after getting to the doorstep in head coach Danny Rocco’s first season, the Hens will make the field of 24. The defense will lead the way with the likes of linebackers Troy Reeder and Charles Bell and safety Nasir Adderly, a growing NFL prospect.
Villanova is the nation’s sleeper team
In finishing 5-6, the Wildcats are the only team in the Athlon Preseason FCS Top 25 that didn’t have a winning record last season. It’s tough to blame them because they were decimated by season-ending injuries. Note they were No. 8 heading into 2017 and they’re No. 11 going into 2018 with the return of quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, running back Matt Gudzak, tight end Ryan Bell and All-America safety Rob Rolle as fifth-year seniors. Starting with Temple on Sept. 1, second-year head coach Mark Ferrante’s ‘Cats will be a tough out for any opponent.
Jimmye Laycock will fall short of 250
The 70-year-old Laycock is the longest-tenured coach in Division I, entering his 39th season at William & Mary. He is five wins shy of 250 in his career (245-189-2), but with the Tribe coming off his worst season – 2-9 overall and 0-8 in the CAA – he will fall short of the 250-win milestone (maybe by one). The young talent in the program could be ready to mature into a winner in 2019.
-- Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics)