What we think we know about the Patriot League football race isn’t necessarily so.
In the last four seasons, a different program has won the league title – Lafayette (2013), Fordham (2014), Colgate (2015) and Lehigh (last year) – and the preseason pollsters only got it right once (Fordham in 2014).
Yes, there are a lot of twists and turns in the Patriot League. This season, they could come from the high-powered offenses of defending champion Lehigh and runner-up Fordham moving through opposing defenses.
At least we think so. But we know where that’s gotten us before.
With the college football season fast approaching, here are five key questions for the Patriot League:
How many games until Chase Edmonds surpasses the FCS rushing record?
Edmonds has rushed for 5,285 yards over 37 career games, on pace to surpass former Georgia Southern running back Adrian Peterson’s FCS all-time rushing record of 6,559 yards. If Edmonds continues at his average of 142.8 rushing yards per game, the senior would become the all-time leader in the Rams’ ninth game, which happens to be against rival Lehigh.
Is the road too winding for Lehigh?
There’s no disputing Lehigh’s incredible offense with quarterback Brad Mayes, running back Dom Bragalone and wide receivers Gaitlin Casey and Troy Pelletier leading the way. While the Mountain Hawks swept through the Patriot League schedule last season, they have a tougher schedule this year, playing last year’s second- (Fordham), third- (Colgate) and fourth-place (Bucknell) teams on the road. The Mountain Hawks were below .500 on the road in 2014 and ’15.
Is this more than a two-team race?
Lehigh and Fordham rate a cut above the rest of the league because of their explosive offenses, but they need to step up their defense. Colgate, the 2015 Patriot champ, can never be discounted from the race, and they usually excel when expectations are lower. Holy Cross will be much improved with Peter Pujals back behind center after an injury-shortened 2016 season. Bucknell won’t be a title contender, but it can play spoiler in the race.
Can Georgetown find success without scholarships?
The return of 15 starters and the addition of 28 freshmen creates optimism in the offseason, but Georgetown is so strapped once the season begins. The only member of the Patriot League not to offer football scholarships is 4-19 in league games, including 0-6 last season, since they were instituted for the 2013 season. Until Georgetown starts to offer them, there is little chance of the Hoyas escaping the bottom half of the league.
Who are the NFL prospects?
On the heels of the Patriot League producing Bucknell offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport as a fourth-round draft pick of the Houston Texans, the Patriot League boasts an excellent senior class. Leading the way as NFL prospects are Edmonds (5-9, 210) and Colgate defensive end/outside linebacker Pat Afriyie (6-2, 235), who the league’s 2016 defensive player of the year.
— 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 by Fordham University Athletics)