Will CAA get four playoff teams?

BY AP • November 3, 2017

(STATS) - Parity doesn't always equal prosperity.

Despite James Madison's two-year reign of superiority over its CAA Football brethren - accentuated by an active 15-game winning streak in league play - most of the conference's 12 members have experienced plenty of starts and stops during a 2017 season that's been as unpredictable as it's been exciting.

An abundance of depth can have its drawbacks, though, as nine teams enter November with three or more checks in the loss column. And although the CAA has sent four teams to the FCS playoffs in each of the last three years, that run could be in jeopardy considering the competition those still left standing will face during the final stretch.

Eight wins has been the target in recent seasons, as the conference hasn't had a team with that many miss the postseason since the playoffs expanded in 2013. That's still an attainable goal for a number of the league's hopefuls, albeit not an easy one.

With that in mind, here's a breakdown of where everyone presently stands in the race, as well as what lies ahead:

THE LOCKS

JAMES MADISON (8-0, 5-0 CAA)

Remaining games: at Rhode Island, Richmond, at No. 7 Elon

The defending national champion Dukes, No. 1 in both the STATS FCS Top 25 and the first NCAA selection committee rankings, are safely in even with an unforeseen collapse. The only drama may be if they can stay ahead of North Dakota State for the top overall seed if both win out. The CAA's automatic bid could also remain in limbo until the final week if upstart Elon keeps on piling up the victories.

ON TRACK

ELON (7-1, 5-0)

Remaining games: Towson, at No. 21 New Hampshire, No. 1 James Madison

STONY BROOK (6-2, 5-1)

Remaining games: Albany, Wagner, at Maine

The surprising Phoenix may still have some doubters after ripping off seven straight wins by a combined 28 points, but the committee isn't doubting their legitimacy by placing them seventh in the initial rankings. Extending that streak Saturday against rebuilding Towson should be enough to ensure the program's second FCS playoff berth, and a national seed would likely be all but sewn up should they come out of Durham victorious the following week.

Like Elon, the 14th-ranked Seawolves probably aren't gathering many style points, but their sound and methodical approach has Chuck Priore's charges on the verge of a first playoff trip since 2012. They'll be heavily favored to win the two remaining home games, and a top-eight seed isn't out of the question should they run the table with quality victories over New Hampshire and Richmond already in the bank.

THE STILL GOT A SHOTS

NEW HAMPSHIRE (5-3, 3-2)

Remaining games: at William & Mary, No. 7 Elon, at Albany

DELAWARE (5-3, 3-2)

Remaining games: at Maine, Albany, at No. 20 Villanova

The Blue Hens' chances definitely took a hit with a last-minute defeat at Towson this past week, but all is not lost for a team that owns a road win over Stony Brook in addition to its grudge-match decision over Richmond. Saturday's matchup against a solid Maine squad could be a toss-up, though Delaware may catch a break from it being held in Portland instead of on campus. The rivalry game with Villanova is a certain challenge as well. The Hens have trouble throwing the ball, and the Wildcats sport the FCS' top run defense.

Still without a true road win, No. 21 New Hampshire's outlook is a bit cloudy as well, as the early-season victory over FBS member Georgia Southern has lost some shine with the Eagles currently 0-7. But the two away games are hardly killers, and beating Elon would go a long way towards extending the Wildcats' postseason streak to 14 years. Keep in mind UNH is 11-1 in its last 12 regular-season games in November.

THE LONG SHOTS

MAINE (4-3, 3-3)Remaining games: Delaware, Massachusetts (at Boston), Stony Brook

RICHMOND (4-4, 2-3)Remaining games: at No. 20 Villanova, at No. 1 James Madison, William & Mary

VILLANOVA (4-4, 2-3)

Remaining games: Richmond, at Rhode Island, Delaware

Villanova's promising 2015 campaign was derailed by a season-ending knee injury to star quarterback John Robertson, and it's looking like deja vu two years later. The Wildcats' offense has gone in the tank since Zach Bednarczyk tore a knee ligament in late September, plus they're still without several other key contributors on both sides of the ball. None of the remaining games are cake-walks, as longtime pushover Rhode Island has been a tough out in its two games since elevating New Mexico transfer JaJuan Lawson into the starting quarterback role.

Both Richmond and Maine still lack a signature victory in their portfolios, though each have ample opportunities to change the narrative. But even if the Spiders get past decimated Villanova on Saturday, the odds of coming out of Harrisonburg with a win appear long. Considering the Black Bears also may have a hard time in their Fenway Park tilt with UMass, it's hard to make a strong case for them as well even if they win two of three.

THE NO-SHOTS

ALBANY (3-5, 1-4), TOWSON (3-5, 1-4), RHODE ISLAND (2-6, 1-4), WILLIAM & MARY (2-6, 1-4)

Oh, what might have been for Albany had Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks' recurring knee issues limited the playmaking running back to one game. The Great Danes' offense has been a wreck in his absence, as evidenced by the 125 total yards the unit managed in last week's 31-14 home loss to improving URI.


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