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A conference with the top-to-bottom depth of the Colonial Athletic Association delivers a schedule that, predictably, features outstanding matchups throughout the fall.
The CAA helps usher in the 2019 Football Championship Subdivision season in Week 0, and from there, the ensuing 13 weeks translate to a white-knuckle race to the Playoffs.
Here's a list of Association games that that already stand out.
Villanova at Colgate | Hamilton, N.Y. | Saturday, Aug. 24 @ 12 PM ET
Two-time defending Patriot League champion Colgate enjoyed a 2018 season that ranks among the program’s very best in an illustrious history. With quarterback Grant Breneman and running back James Holland both back in the mix, the Raiders are looking to build on last year’s run, which included an upset win over James Madison during the FCS Playoffs.
For Villanova, the season-opener is an opportunity to make a statement in the national spotlight against an opponent with realistic aspirations to end its season in Frisco, Texas—and one of the best defenses in college football.
The first full weekend of games sees CAA members in non-conference action, taking on FCS opponents from the MEAC, Pioneer Football League, Northeast, Patriot League and Southern Conference. FBS matchups pit CAA squads against teams from the Mid-American and Big 12.
Albany at Central Michigan | Mount Pleasant, Mich. | Thursday, Aug. 29 @ 7 PM ET
MAC member Central Michigan opened its 2017 campaign against another CAA opponent, Rhode Island, and narrowly escaped, 30-27, in two overtimes. Albany seeks its second-ever win against an FBS opponent, with hopes of spoiling Jim McElwain’s debut as Chippewas head coach.
Elon at North Carolina A&T | Greensboro, N.C. | Saturday, Aug. 31 @ 6 PM ET
The Tony Trisciani era officially begins at Elon with an outstanding matchup. The Phoenix face two-time defending Celebration Bowl winner North Carolina A&T—one of the most consistent FCS programs of the past few seasons.
William & Mary at Virginia | Charlottesville, Va. | Friday, Sept. 6 @ 8 PM ET
After nearly four decades with Jimmye Laycock on the sidelines, Mike London returns to the CAA to usher in a new era. The Tribe head coach faces the Virginia program he took over in 2010 shortly after leading Richmond to a national championship.
Delaware at Rhode Island | Kingston, R.I. | Saturday, Sept. 7 @ 7 PM ET
An important season in the progress of Rhode Island football opened with the Rams stunning eventual FCS Playoff participant Delaware, 21-19. One of Rhody’s stars from that season-defining win, linebacker Branyan Javier-Castillo, aims to slow Pat Kehoe and the Blue Hens offense.
Towson at Maine | Orono, Maine | Saturday, Sept. 14 @ 7 PM ET
Two of the CAA’s 2018 playoff participants help usher in the new conference season.
If their 2019 encounter emulates last season’s matchup, this should be electric. Towson erased a third-quarter deficit of 18 points with a pair of Tom Flacco touchdown passes to Shane Simpson, but Maine answered with an 85-yard drive and ensuing goal-line stand to preserve the win.
North Dakota State at Delaware | Newark, Del. | Saturday, Sept. 14 @ TBA
The juggernaut of FCS, North Dakota State is on an historic tear, having won seven of the past eight national championships. Delaware welcomes the Bison to CAA country for the first time ever—the second-half of a home-and-home series. The Blue Hens lost at the Fargodome last year.
Maine at Colgate | Hamilton, N.Y. | Saturday, Sept. 21 @ 12 PM ET
Both Maine and Colgate advanced in last season’s playoffs and flourished throughout the campaign, with similarly stingy defensive styles.
The Raiders aim for their third consecutive Patriot League championship in 2019, and fourth postseason in five years, while Maine’s seeking to build on last year’s CAA title under first-year head coach Nick Charlton.
Rhode Island at New Hampshire | Durham, N.H. | Saturday, Sept. 21 @ TBA
Rhode Island concluded its first winning season under coach Jim Fleming with a 24-21 defeat of New Hampshire last November. Ahmere Dorsey returned a kickoff 95 yards for Rhody in the win.
James Madison at Elon | Elon, N.C. | Saturday, Sept. 28 @ TBA
Curt Cignetti coached Elon to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in program history. He’s now at 2016 national champion James Madison, inheriting a roster capable of another run to Frisco. Cignetti’s former program is one of the tallest hurdles ahead of his current program.
Expect a fun back-and-forth, with some of the CAA’s most exciting players on both sides of the ball. Phoenix running back Jaylan Thomas and Dukes quarterback Ben DiNucci are both Offensive Player of the Year contenders.
Coach’s thoughts following the completion of spring ball. pic.twitter.com/lotuAVz7xj— JMU Football (@JMUFootball) April 13, 2019
Duquesne at New Hampshire | Durham, N.H. | Saturday, Sept. 28 @ TBA
NEC champion Duquesne proved more than capable of hanging with CAA competition when it upset Towson in the opening round of the FCS Playoffs. Dukes running back A.J. Hines is a preseason All-American and presents a stiff challenge to Quinlen Dean and the veteran New Hampshire defense.
James Madison at Stony Brook | Stony Brook, N.Y. | Saturday, Oct. 5 @ 6 PM ET
Stony Brook successfully pulled high-scoring James Madison into a defensive struggle in last season’s matchup at Bridgeforth Stadium, but a pair of Tyler Gray field goals in the fourth quarter helped James Madison escape.
Rhode Island at Brown | Providence, R.I. | Saturday, Oct. 5 @ 12:30 PM ET
Rhody emphatically reclaimed the Governor’s Cup in last year’s edition of the rivalry, 48-0. The margin of victory was the largest for either side in the 109-year series since a 55-6 Brown in 1947.
Delaware at Elon | Elon, N.C. | Saturday, Oct. 12 @ TBA
A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns put the exclamation point on a dazzling defensive effort from Delaware in last season’s matchup between these two Playoffs teams.
Richmond at Maine | Orono, Maine | Saturday, Oct. 12 @ 12 PM ET
Pity the quarterbacks lining up behind center in this one.
Richmond and Delaware both feature some of the most fearsome backfield terrors in college football. Spiders defensive end Maurice Jackson is a preseason All-American, and Maine’s Deshawn Stevens and Kayon Whitaker may be the most difficult-to-block tandem in the nation.
New Hampshire at Delaware | Newark, Del. | Saturday, Oct. 19 @ TBA
A few of the CAA’s top ball-carriers headline this mid-October matchup.
Carlos Washington Jr. is back in 2019 after racking up 607 yards with six touchdowns on just 104 carries. Delaware lighting bug DeJoun Lee provided a prolific change-of-pace option to Kani Kane in 2018. This season, Lee gets the opportunity to shoulder a heavier load.
Stony Brook at Villanova | Villanova, Pa. | Saturday, Oct. 26 @ 3:30 PM ET
Stony Brook rallied from a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter of last year’s matchup to score 29 consecutive points. The Seawolves then denied Villanova a would-be game-tying two-point conversion with less than a minute left to escape, 29-27 winners.
Richmond at Delaware | Newark, Del. | Saturday, Oct. 26 @ TBA
Richmond enjoyed a successful stretch with Danny Rocco at the helm before Rocco departed for Delaware. Rocco’s successor at Richmond, Russ Huesman, is working in his third year to bring the same success and excitement that defined his previous tenure at Chattanooga.
Delaware at Towson | Towson, Md. | Saturday, Nov. 2 @ 1 PM ET
The 2018 Delaware-Towson matchup became an instant classic. Delaware rallied from a 15-point deficit late in the third quarter to force a wild shootout, won on Pat Kehoe’s touchdown pass to Vinny Papale with 30 seconds remaining—a response to Shane Simpson’s go-ahead score just a minute-and-a-half earlier.
“We have a lot of talented guys that are ready to step up and I’m excited to see that unfold over the next few weeks.”— Delaware Football (@DelawareFB) March 12, 2019
Spring Ball is HERE!
Check out what Coach Rocco and @pkehoe23 had to say at today’s practice. #BleedBlue302 #BlueHens pic.twitter.com/56sXKfQ8Ru
Villanova at New Hampshire | Durham, N.H. | Saturday, Nov. 2 @ TBA
Each of the CAA’s Wildcats endured down 2018 seasons, but precedent suggests one should not expect either to stay there long.
Both teams return experience on defense and some of the conference’s most electric playmakers on that side of the ball. Villanova defensive back Christian Benford, the 2018 CAA Defensive Rookie of the Year, could help his Wildcats into playoff contention by this juncture of the season.
Maine at Elon | Elon, N.C. | Saturday, Nov. 9 @ TBA
Maine sewed up an outright CAA championship in 2018 on the final day of the regular season, weathering a late-game storm against Elon. The Phoenix’s furious fourth-quarter rally fell a point short, 27-26.
Don’t think that single digit won’t weigh on the returning players’ minds when Elon hosts the Black Bears almost a full year later.
Towson at Stony Brook | Stony Brook, N.Y. | Saturday, Nov. 9 @ 1 PM ET
Few dates on the CAA calendar offer quite the clash of contrasting styles as Towson’s conference-best offense against Stony Brook’s always-stingy defense. The Tigers’ style won out in 2018, with Tom Flacco going off for four passing touchdowns, Shane Simpson running for a score, and Towson rolling up 52 points.
New Hampshire at James Madison | Harrisburg, Va. | Saturday, Nov. 9 @ 3:30 PM ET
A big November sent the Wildcats into the offseason with plenty of positive momentum and hope for a return to contention in 2019.
No game in the final month was more indicative of the turnaround than a 35-24 upset of James Madison. The Dukes may have this date circled in red ink on their calendars, but they won’t get a shot at redemption against UNH quarterback Trevor Knight. Knight graduated, leaving with a defining performance against JMU.
Rhode Island at Maine | Orono, Maine | Saturday, Nov. | Saturday, Nov. 16 @ 12 PM ET
This New England-area series isn’t a rivalry, but the 2018 encounter had all the drama of a classic rivalry game. The 2019 installment has a high standard to meet; Maine’s 38-36 win may have been the game of the year in the CAA, decided in the final second on a Kenny Doak field goal.
Stony Brook at Delaware | Newark, Del. | Saturday, Nov. 16 @ TBA
Stony Brook’s often overwhelming defense was fantastic in last season’s meeting with Delaware, holding the Fightin’ Blue Hens to just three points. Standout defensive lineman Sam Kamara is one of the Seawolves back from that unit, which could shape up as the CAA’s toughest in 2019.
Maine at New Hampshire | Durham, N.H. | Saturday, Nov. 23 @ TBA
One of the most unique rivalry trophies in college goes to the winner of the Battle for the Brice-Cowell Musket. For the past two seasons, the 116-year-old rivalry kicked off the slate. The Battle moves back to its customary place on Rivalry Week in 2019.
Delaware at Villanova | Villanova, Pa. | Saturday, Nov. 23 @ 12 PM ET
The Battle of the Blue has been all Villanova for the past seven years—including last year, when the Wildcats stunned the playoff-bound Fightin’ Blue Hens, 42-21.
William & Mary at Richmond | Richmond, Va. | Saturday, Nov. 23 @ 12 PM ET
The South’s Oldest Rivalry dates back to 1898. In a rivalry with this much history, finding a brand new angle is a challenge. However, the 2019 matchup for the Capital Cup does exactly that, featuring two opposing head coaches with significant histories at the other school. Richmond’s Russ Huesman is a disciple of longtime Tribe leader Jimmye Laycock, while Laycock successor Mike London takes over after having won a national title at Richmond.
Albany at Stony Brook | Stony Brook, N.Y. | Saturday, Nov. 23 @ 1 PM ET
The Golden Apple Trophy is new by college football rivalry standards. Introduced in 1995, this season marks just the 21st edition of the Empire Clash. The series isn’t without memorable moments in that short time, however—not the least of which is Albany’s stunning, 25-23 win last season that threw a serious wrench in Stony Brook’s playoff forecast.
Elon at Towson | Towson, Md. | Saturday, Nov. 23 @ 1 PM ET
Elon-Towson isn't necessarily a rivalry, despite its being played during Rivalry Week. That being said, Elon may have some additional motivation on the final weekend of 2019, after Towson’s 41-10 romp in the penultimate week a season ago knocked the Phoenix from the CAA Championship hunt.