My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 4: 9/28/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

I don't ordinarily do do two things with my poll that I actually did this week:

1. I usually don't demote a team completely out of the Top 25 if they're a Top 5 team and they lose.

2. I usually don't demote a team from the No. 1 slot if they win their game.

But that's exactly what I did, after I looked at my poll with a fresh new set of eyes after some of the more interesting outcomes from the weekend.

I'd been meaning to demote Villanova for some time, not only due to their sort-of lackluster performance over the beginning of the season, but for their seemingly lackluster play going back to last season when Sam Houston upset them in the FCS Round of 8 last season.  I was looking for a dominant performance against the worst team on their schedule, Penn, and instead the Quakers upset the Wildcats 24-13.

You could argue that they were getting things done with defense.  You could have said that with the loss of their Walter Payton Award-nominated quaterback, QB John Robertson, they'd suffer.  But the team that lost this past Thursday, simply, wasn't a Top 25 team in my opinion.  The confluence of all these factors had me dip them out of the Top 25 entirely.

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Princeton Weekend Shows Work Needs To Be Done To Be Contenders

I always enjoy making the trip to catch a Princeton game when I can.

Aside from the sentimental attachment that I have to the place, there's a lot to recommend it as a destination for anyone.

After Lehigh's 52-26 loss to Princeton, however, the Mountain Hawk people I saw after the game couldn't wait to get out of there and regroup.

Everything about this early, challenging schedule for the Mountain Hawks seems to have been designed to determine how close Lehigh is at becoming contenders once again.  It's a challenging, strong out-of-conference schedule that doesn't need an FBS team on it to make it a stern test for this group of players.

If anything in particular was learned about this weekend's game, it's that this Mountain Hawk team still needs work in order to win their Patriot League games and possibly win a Patriot League championship.  Spectacular individual plays, like junior CB Brandon Leaks upending Princeton RB Dre Nelson, are great, and like any other Lehigh fan I love to see them.  But the stuff needed to win football games are greater than individual plays, unfortunately.
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Frustrated Lehigh Can’t Overcome Mistakes, Trickery, Fall to Princeton 52-26

Head coach Andy Coen stood outside the locker room, obviously agitated at the result of the game.  Outside, beautiful fireworks were exploding over Princeton Stadium on a beautiful night.

In front of the locker room, the fire was coming from Lehigh head coach, verbalizing what all the players, and fans, saw on the evening.

"The turnovers, the penalties, the blocked extra point, losing momentum there, that was all stuff we had control over," Coen said, seemingly wanting to get back onto the field right then and there, with the fireworks going off, and play the game all over again.  "They had no control over that.  It was our problem jumping offsides, it was our problem dropping balls, our problem not being focused enough.  And if you are not focused enough, then someone else will play."

It was so frustrating because the Mountain Hawks had some real pretty looking numbers on the stat sheet.  They outgained Princeton 561 yards to 497.  Junior QB Nick Shafnisky had 348 yards passing, many of them to sophomore WR Troy Pelletier, who broke a school record for completions in a game with 15.  Freshman RB Dom Bragalone played an outstanding game, becoming the second freshman running back in as many weeks to rush for over 100 yards in a game.

Yet Lehigh didn't win in the only statistic that really matters - points.  Last week, Lehigh doubled up Penn.  This week, Princeton would double up Lehigh, 52-26.
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How To Catch Lehigh/Princeton If You’re Not Seeing the Pope

Anything else happening today of note?

If you're not able to catch Lehigh/Princeton in person, whether due to the Pope being in town or just because you need to catch up on your wildflower collection, you can stream the game here from the Ivy League Digital Network.  Unfortunately, it is not a free service, like that of the Patriot League and NEC, so if you wish to enjoy the game this way, it will cost you a few bucks.

Ivy League Digital Network

If you're anything like me and are too cheap to spring for the $10 required, everyone's favorite radio call will be available here from Matt Kerr and Matt Markus will be reporting the pregame and sideline:

http://www.espnlv.com/

While waiting for Lehigh/Princeton to start, you can catch the first Patriot League conference game of the season, Colgate at Holy Cross:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

It also may be on your local TV.  Check your local listings.  It doesn't appear to be on in the Lehigh Valley area, unfortunately.

A familiar foe for Lehigh fans, Monmouth, faces off against Fordham at 1PM:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

Georgetown faces off against Columbia but it's behind the ILDN pay firewall:

http://www.ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com/ivyleague/schedule

Lafayette faces off against Wagner with a 6PM start, perhaps something to catch after Lehigh beats Princeton:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live/football-lafayette-at-wagner-2015-08-07

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Other games that might be of interest to Lehigh fans that aren't happening simultaneously with Lehigh/Princeton:

Valparaiso, with former Lehigh offensive coordinator Dave Cecchini as lead guy, hosts Pioneer League heavyweight San Diego at 1:30 PM:

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

Notre Dame/UMass is on at 3:30 PM on NBC if you want to see what a true power FBS school can do to a school that should be competing in FCS.  (Also if you want to see a little vengance for 1998.)

San Diego State takes on Penn State at 3:30 PM on the Big 10 Network in another game whose final outcome should be well determined before Lehigh/Princeton's 5:00 PM kickoff.

Lehigh's Week 2 opponent, James Madison, takes on SMU in a potential FCS vs. FBS upset.  A win by the Dukes would certainly cement them nationally as a serious national championship contender.  That game will be on ESPN3 at 7:00 PM.

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

Another interesting game could be nationally-ranked Liberty vs. Southern Illinois, with the Flames trying to avoid a letdown after their big win last week vs. Montana.

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

Something interesting to watch while having Texas A&M/Arkansas on ESPN in the background.

Game Breakdown, Lehigh at Princeton, 9/26/2015

We break down the Princeton game - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

It's rare that I talk about last week's opponent in this space, especially when the focus should really be on how to beat Princeton.  But Penn's 24-13 win over No. 4 Villanova was so stunning to this reporter and such a great thing for head coach Ray Priore's Quakers that it's worth mentioning here.

It was a result that seemed to even stun Penn's head coach, who earned a whopper of a first win thanks to winning the time of possession battle (holding onto the ball for more than 39 minutes on offense), benefiting from Villanova miscues (a roughing-the-punter call kept one Penn drive alive that ended in a touchdown) and making huge plays (as the Wildcats were driving to score, Penn LB Tyler Drake strip-sacked Villanova's quarterback, leading LB Donald Panicello to scoop and score a 92 yard touchdown return).

"Wow, just wow," Priore said after the game. "You know, you keep trying and trying and praying and praying. It had to happen sooner or later, right?"

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Game Preview, Lehigh at Princeton, 9/26/2015

Rarely are scouting opportunities so accessible.

Shortly after Lehigh beat Penn last weekend, there was an opportunity for a Patriot/Ivy doubleheader for FCS football mavens, and a chance for Lehigh football fans to get a sneak peek at next week's competition.

What they saw couldn't have made any Mountain Hawk fan breathe easy.

What they saw was a dominating performance by the Tigers, a 40-7 walloping that had local sportswriters like Brad Wilson of the Express-Times dig down deep to describe the depth of the blowout.  "If Frank Tavani had seen Saturday's train wreck of a 40-7 loss to Princeton by his Lafayette football team coming," he wrote, "he'd have done everything in his power to derail the Leopard Express from proceeding down the track to Disaster City."

In Wilson's defense, the depth of the completeness of the win over Lafayette was hard to adequately describe.  Princeton only allowed six first downs in the first half, and only let up a meaningless touchdown with five minutes to play to allow Lafayette to avoid a shutout.  On offense, Princeton would rack up 573 yards of offense, including more than 300 on the ground, against what was thought to be Lafayette's strength this season, the defense.  Special teams?  Princeton 2/2 on field goals.  Lafayette 0/1.

Based on this great statistical performance, and watching the replay, what to make of Lehigh's chances against the same squad this weekend that seemed as dominant as the national championship Princeton football teams of 100 years ago?

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My FCS Top 25 Vote, Week 3, 9/21/2015

If you'd like, you can check out my FCS Top 25 vote below.

A question FCS voters frequently get is: How to rank FCS over FBS upsets?

Bascially, the same questions plaguing rankings on the FBS side ("Is Jacksonville State simply a really, really good FCS team?  Or is Auburn really bad?) cuts the other way in the FCS world.

Jacksonville State almost beat Auburn.  But the meaning of that close shave is still undetermined.  Auburn didn't look like much last week after being dominated by LSU.  What if the Tigers finish under .500?  How will Jacksonville State's close shave look then?

With Furman's upset over UCF 16-15, we have another opportunity to play the game of "how good is this team, really?"  Furman's in my Top 25, barely, mostly on the back of their upset win against a team that quite recently was seen as a quality mid-major in the FBS world.  But the Paladins are 1-2, though with one of the toughest schedules in FCS.  So, again: How good was the win?

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Romp At Home Shows "Back To The Future" for Lehigh Offense

It is not my favorite movie by a longshot, but this week my family and I watched Back to the Future, the seminal Robert Zemeckis coming-of-age movie starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.

I've always felt it's an OK, meh movie.  It seems to rely on gimmicks and time gags ("What's a rerun?") to get its yuks, and it has no business being as beloved as it remains to this day.  My wife and my son loved it, as they have their own minds and, in our family, you're allowed to like what you like without criticism.  I watched it, happy they were happy, and amused.

In the back of my mind while watching Christopher Lloyd attach the cable to the tower clock, I was worried about Penn.

The consequences of a loss in this game to the 2015 season would have been severe.  The Mountain Hawks were already coming off a rough 55-17 loss to James Madison, one where criticisms of the team, the coaches, and players were starting to be heard.  A 1-2 start heading into two tough out-of-conference games versus Princeton and Yale could have the Mountain Hawks staring down a 1-4 start going into conference play.

Instead, Lehigh would crack 40 points at home in a 42-21 win over Penn, scoring six touchdowns and for the most part controlling the game in a way that wasn't seen in a while at Murray Goodman Stadium.

With a three touchdown win and the Mountain Hawks dropping 40 points at home, are we... Back to the Future?
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Lehigh Doubles Win Total And Doubles Up Penn 42-21

"I talked to the kids, really all week," head coach Andy Coen said in the run-up to this weekend's Penn game on the heels of a tough 55-17 loss to No. 10 James Madison.  "We weren't thrilled with... everything... that happened in that game.  We didn't put our best foot forward."

"We got on the guys," he continued, "and said to them: You've got to win.  You've got to make up your mind that you want to win.  You have to want to start winning games."

At 1-1 and the experience of a tough loss still fresh in everyone's minds, winning this weekend at home and gaining momentum going forward into the rest of the season was the theme of the week.

This Saturday, the 2-1 Mountain Hawks at the end of the afternoon had fulfilled both objectives.

Lehigh's 42-21 doubling up of Penn wasn't a game of perfection.  But it was a devastating Mountain Hawk offensive performance, coupled with enough big plays on defense, to get a very satisfying win for the home crowd of 6,971 on hand on a sunny, somewhat humid afternoon.
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How to Catch Penn/Lehigh If You’re Not At Goodman

Short and sweet.  Live video of today's game is available here:
http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

Everyone's favorite radio call will be available here from Matt Kerr and Tom Fallon in the box. Matt Markus will be reporting the pregame and sideline:

http://www.espnlv.com/

Dartmouth/Georgetown, Delaware/Villanova, Columbia/Fordham and Yale/Colgate are also available to watch on Campus Insiders. but you're way too busy watching the Penn/Lehigh game, right?

Princeton at Lafayette live stream via Campus Insiders, 6:00 PM start:

http://campusinsiders.com/network/patriot_league/live

Holy Cross faces off against Towson and there is a live stream here:

http://portal.stretchinternet.com/towson/

If you want to watch a fantastic chance at an FCS vs. FBS upset, Wofford is taking on Idaho today streaming on ESPN3 at 5:00 PM:

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

There's also Maine at Tulane at 8:00 PM:

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

Montana also plays at Liberty in a battle of ranked teams on ESPN3 at 7:00 PM:

http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index

Oh yeah, there's also that other game in play tonight: Rutgers at Penn State on the Big 10 Network with an 8:00 PM start.