Delaware Vs. Towson Prediction & More CAA Week 9 Picks
Delaware Vs. Towson Prediction & More CAA Week 9 Picks
The push for both the FCS Playoffs and the CAA championship kicks into a higher gear with just four weeks remaining on the 2023 schedule.
Undefeated against Football Championship Subdivision competition, alone in first place atop the Coastal Athletic Association and revealed as the current No. 5 seed if the FCS Playoffs kicked off today, Delaware is rolling.
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But Blue Hens coach Ryan Carty knows full well that Delaware's work is just beginning. Delaware goes on the road for a second straight week, following its Week 8 romp at Hampton with a visit to a surging Towson.
Towson's first season under coach Pete Shinnick has been marked with considerable improvement in a short time frame. The Tigers boast wins over each of last season's CAA co-champions, following an overtime thriller on Sept. 30 at New Hampshire with an impressive comeback from down two touchdowns at halftime last week at William & Mary.
"Week-to-week, [Towson has] gotten better and better," Carty said. "You can see that they're extremely well-coached, they're tough, they running around, they're talented. They'll be the defense other than Penn State we've played so far."
Towson's defense shut down William & Mary after intermission in Week 8. The Tribe did not cross the 50-yard until their final possession, at which point the Tigers had an unsurmountable lead. Rodney Roane Jr. came through for two sacks and forced a critical fumble in the fourth quarter, his effort headlining an all-around standout showing from the Towson linebacker corps.
The quartet of Roane, Daniel Raymond, Mason Woods, and Jamal Gay combined for 4.5 tackles for loss and 20 tackles total. Towson will need another strong collective effort from them against Delaware's multi-faceted rushing attack.
Blue Hens running backs Marcus Yarns and Kyron Cumby average 7.3 and 8.4 yards per game, combine for more than 140 yards per game, and have 12 rushing touchdowns between them: nine for Yarns and three for Cumby.
Delaware's proficient rushing offense also showed off another dangerous wrinkle against Hampton with quarterback Zach Marker carrying for 37 yards and a touchdown.
"For him coming in cold and playing the way he played, extremely impressive," Shinnick said of Marker's performance. "He came in and looked like he'd been doing it all year long...Definitely makes preparing for them more challenging, not knowing what you're going to get, but knowing no matter who you get is going to be pretty good."
Marker, starting in place of Ryan O'Connor, completed 17-of-28 pass attempts for 239 yards with a touchdown throw to Josh Youngblood. Youngblood was one of six Blue Hens to catch three passes against the Pirates, a testament to Delaware's depth among pass-catchers.
Eight Blue Hens head into Week 9 with at least 139 yards receiving and five have caught multiple touchdown passes.
The diversity of the Delaware offense means all-hands-on-deck for a Towson defense that in its last two outings limited a pair of the conference's most athletic offenses — UAlbany and William & Mary — each to 24 points.
The defensive effort at William & Mary was also aided with a Herculean offensive performance in the second, the tone for which was set on a 22-play drive that ate up more than 11 minutes in the third.
"If you want to go on a drive like that, you have a great attention to detail," Carty said. "You have to have your thoughts and your mind on ball security at all times."
"I was thinking of that on the bus ride home: Have there been many longer?" Shinnick said when asked if the 22 plays were the most any of his teams ever strung together on a single drive. "We've had some 19s and 20s in there. But the beauty of [the 22-play series vs. William & Mary] is there was a fake punt in there, as well."
Punter Josh Cupitt's run on a fourth-and-six deep in Tigers territory helped ignite the drive, and was one of two fourth-down conversions en route to the game-turning touchdown.
The other came on tight end Carter Runyon's reception from quarterback Nathan Kent, part of a monster day from Runyon. The big man's seven catches for 92 yards and two touchdowns were all team-highs.
Runyon is fast establishing himself as one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the nation after hauling in just one pass in the first three weeks. Over the last four, he's gone for 62 yards on six receptions vs. Norfolk State; five for 83 yards and a touchdown at New Hampshire; and seven grabs each in the last two contests.
"For the last three weeks, Carter's been our leading receiver since DK James has been out," Shinnick said. "What he does at 6-foot-6, he creates some match-up issues and we move him around quite a bit. Our offensive coordinator, Ryan Sheppard, does a really good trying to find where [Runyon]'s at."
"Runyon's versatility in the passing game could be especially important this week against a stacked Delaware defense — and with the Tigers going the rest of the way without one of their most explosive playmakers."
Electrifying receiver and special-teams weapon D'Ago Hunter will miss the remainder of the season, Shinnick said. Hunter is undergoing ankle surgery.
The Blue Hens, meanwhile, have held FCS opponents to 78 combined points. Only New Hampshire cracked 17 points against the Delaware defense. Towson showed the firepower to go at a powerful defense with its win at William & Mary, and the Tigers have played nothing but tight contests going into the fourth quarter.
Expect another hotly-contested finish on Saturday.
PREDICTION: Delaware 27, Towson 21
New Hampshire at Rhode Island
New England neighbors New Hampshire and Rhode Island meet for the 96th time, making this the second-longest-running rivalry for each program. The Wildcats dominated the initial stretch during the CAA era, scoring at least 40 points six times against the Rams from 2007 through 2014.
UNH went 10-1 in the series from 2007 through 2017, with eight of the wins coming by double-digit margins.
Like many of Rhode Island's fortunes in the Jim Fleming, however, the rivalry with New Hampshire became far more competitive in recent years. Last year's 31-28 classic, won when Max Brosmer found DJ Linkins on a touchdown pass with 17 seconds remaining, marked the third game in the last four meetings decided by just three points.
The series is split 2-2 in the last four years.
Last season's meeting had lofty playoff implications with both the Wildcats and Rams coming in at 6-3. This season's installment is no different, functioning perhaps as an elimination game. UNH snapped a two-game skid when it rallied to beat UAlbany on Oct. 14, 38-31, then routed Stony Brook last week, 45-41.
The two wins pushed New Hampshire back over .500 at 4-3 and on the periphery of the Top 25. With a crowded playoff bubble, the Wildcats can ill afford a slip-up against a tough closing stretch of URI, Villanova, Monmouth, and rival Maine.
Brosmer's outstanding 2023 continued with four passing touchdowns, a rushing score, and his fourth straight game of at least 335 yards through the air. He's exceeded 400 yards twice and has four games with at least four combined scores.
A Rhode Island defense that ranks eighth in the nation with nine interceptions will try to generate a pick against a quarterback in Brosmer whose touchdown-to-interception ratio has inflated to an absurd 10.5-to-1.
Syeed Gibbs, Jordan Colbert, and Fredrick Mallay each have multiple interceptions for the Rams defense, but URI has given up 30 points or more in three of its last five contests.
Rhode Island will also have to account for potentially game-changing special teams. New Hampshire's nation's best nine blocked kicks more than double any other team's output heading into Week 9.
PREDICTION: New Hampshire 41, Rhode Island 28
Campbell at Richmond
Both Campbell and Richmond resuscitated their playoff aspirations with winning streaks they carry into Saturday's matchup at Robins Stadium.
Since dropping heartbreakers to Elon and at North Carolina in consecutive weeks, Campbell has won a couple of close calls at Hampton and last week vs. Maine. The Camels built a 34-14 lead before Maine scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to pull within the final, six-point margin.
"One of the things we try to get done is 3-for-5 [scoring] in the first five possessions, and 4-for-4, meaning four stops in the first four possessions for the defense," Campbell coach Mike Minter said. "If the defense gives up something, then the offense go to get 4-of-5, and they was able to get that [vs. Maine]."
Minter noted after his team's fast start last week the prevalence of second-half comebacks throughout the CAA. Maintaining on a strong start could be a critical point in the Camels' first-ever meeting with the Spiders.
Richmond is one of the hottest teams in the CAA over the past month, rebounding from an 0-2 start to win five of its last six and three in a row.
Over that stretch, the Spiders used a deluge of three straight touchdown drives to overcome a 10-point deficit in the Oct. 7 win over Maine; three unanswered scoring possessions in the win at Rhode Island; and roared out of the gate with 17 points in the first 20 minutes last week at North Carolina A&T. The Week 8 win included a 48-yard pick-six from Jabril Hayes.
The defensive touchdown aside, Richmond's sudden spurtability in part marks a dramatic departure for an offense that struggled early in the season but has since scored 99 points in its last three outings. UR found a potent balance with both Camden Coleman and Kyle Wickersham taking snaps at A&T.
Wickersham's capable ball-carrying, which included one of the meanest runs seen anywhere in college football this season, adds an extra layer to the Richmond offense when working in concert with an improved passing game.
Passing has been no issue at any point this season on the other end. Campbell's Hajj-Malik Williams comes into Week 9 with the nation's third-best passing efficiency at 171.5. He's completed 158 of his 211 attempts for 1,909 yards and 15 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Williams' ability to unfurl the deep ball after the Camels multi-dimensional rushing look draws in defenses can be back-breaking.
Campbell has found success with each of NaQuari Rogers, Lamagea McDowell and Chris McKay Jr. seeing significant carries. McDowell is coming off a 114-yard, two-touchdown performance vs. Maine, and his size at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds may prove central to wearing down the Richmond defense.
The Spiders have been strong on that side of the ball the last two weeks in particular. The Spiders have held opponents to 112.9 rushing yards per game for the season and 3.3 yards a carry, while holding its last two opponents to 168 combined yards on the ground.
Inability to run has produced some forced passes, and the Spiders have capitalized with a CAA-best 12 interceptions.
PREDICTION: Richmond 30, Campbell 28
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