And then William & Mary defensive end Mike Reilly seemed to have the poll in perspective.
"It seems like the favorite never wins it," the Buck Buchanan Award candidate said at CAA Football media day.
"I think it's really all about being consistent with play. You have to win those league games, every single game, every game really counts. If at the end of the year, if you can find yourself in the mix, you can sneak in."
If not with the CAA title, then at least into the FCS playoffs.
The CAA poll serves to highlight teams and motivate players, but selecting it is a difficult exercise because there are too many good CAA teams for one to think he or she can get even close to the correct order come late November.
Six CAA teams enter the season ranked in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 - the high among all conferences. The CAA has had as many as nine teams ranked in a week - a poll record.
"I really like and enjoy the league," said Richmond third-year coach Danny Rocco, whose team is strong enough to win the CAA title or finish, well, around sixth. "The depth of talent, I think the depth of coaching, I think it's important in every program in the CAA to compete and to win."
A year ago, Maine was picked eighth in the preseason poll and won an outright title. New Hampshire started the season by losing three of its first four games, yet rallied to go on its deepest postseason run - reaching the national semifinals. Towson went even further, reaching the national championship game - the eighth - count 'em, eighth - different CAA program to finish in the top two since 2003.
So what did Smith and Wilkins come back to at Towson this preseason? A fifth- place prediction.
That's actually two spots better than Maine and Cosgrove, who won their first- ever CAA title last season.
Will any of this matter in three months?
No, the teams are anxious - some more than others now - to decide the deep conference on the field.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2014 CAA Football race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. New Hampshire
3. William & Mary
6. Stony Brook
9. James Madison
10. Rhode Island
1. NEW HAMPSHIRE WILDCATS
LOCATION: Durham, New Hampshire
STADIUM: Cowell Stadium
COACH: Sean McDonnell (114-71 in 15 seasons at New Hampshire)
LAST SEASON: 10-5 overall, 6-2 CAA (Tie/2nd); No. 4 TSN final ranking
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR Justin Mello (73 receptions, 1,038 yards, 10 TD); OL Ricky Archer; OL Seamus O'Neill; DT Sean McCann (59 TT, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 FR, 1 FR, 1 BLK); S Manny Asam (101 TT, 7 TFL, 8 PBU); PK Mike MacArthur (15-of-20 FG, 86 points)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR R.J. Harris, Sr. (76 receptions, 1,004 yards, 5 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Akil Anderson, Jr. (124 TT, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 6 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Sean Goldrich, Jr. (158-for-264, 2,076 yards, 14 TD, 7 INT)
QB Andy Vailas, Sr. (130-for-218, 1,392 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT)
RB Nico Steriti, Sr. (197 carries, 1,028 yards, 8 TD)
RB/KR Dalton Crossan, So. (32 carries, 385 yards, 4 TD; 23.7-yard KO return average, 1 TD)
WR Jimmy Giansante, Sr. (31 receptions, 306 yards, 2 TD)
TE Harold Spears, Sr. (34 receptions, 478 yards, 4 TD)
LT Rob Bowman, Sr.
C Mike Coccia, Sr.
LG Tad McNeely, So.
DE Cody Muller, Sr. (54 TT, 10 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 FR, 2 FF)
DT Matt Kaplan, Sr. (36 TT, 6.5 sacks)
DT Jullian Turner, Jr.
LB Shane McNeely, Sr. (120 TT, 14 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR, 3 FF)
LB DeVaughn Chollette, So. (63 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FF)
CB Casey DeAndrade, So. (69 TT, 3 TFL, 3 INT, 20 PBU, 1 FR)
S Nick Cefalo, Sr. (66 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 9 PBU, 2 FR)
S Hayden Knudson, Jr. (67 TT, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FF)
P Brad Prasky, Sr. (72 punts, 41.3 ypp)
OUTLOOK: After sitting at 4-4 last season, the Wildcats had to get hot just to make the FCS playoffs. Once they did for their 10th straight appearance, they went on their longest postseason run ever, reaching the national semifinals before falling to North Dakota State, now the champion for three straight years. The Wildcats expect an even better regular season this year with all of their veterans. Goldrich has finally pulled away from Vailas in the quarterback competition, and he can get the ball to a 1,000-yard rusher (Steriti) and 1,000-yard receiver (the All-American Harris). A veteran offensive line will keep the offense moving as well. A much-improved defense was a difference maker last season, and it returns six of its top seven tacklers, led by LBs Anderson and McNeeley. One of the bigger losses is PK MacArthur, a four-year starter. Still, it's a loaded team that enters the season as the CAA favorite (Villanova and Towson aren't on the conference schedule) and No. 4 in the preseason poll.
Aug. 30 - at Toledo
Sept. 13 - Lehigh
Sept. 20 - at Richmond
Sept. 27 - Dartmouth
Oct. 4 - at Elon
Oct. 11 - William & Mary
Oct. 25 - Stony Brook
Nov. 1 - Albany
Nov. 8 - at Rhode Island
Nov. 15 - Delaware
Nov. 22 - at Maine
2. VILLANOVA WILDCATS
LOCATION: Villanova, Pennsylvania
STADIUM: Villanova Stadium
COACH: Andy Talley (204-130-1 in 29 seasons at Villanova; 232-143-2 overall)
LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 5-3 CAA (4th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (7 offense/8 defense)
BIG LOSSES: OL Josh Bucci; DE Rakim Cox (30 TT, 11.5 TFL, 9 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 FF, 3 BLK); DT Antoine Lewis (56 TT, 3 TFL, 2 PBU); CB Craig James (63 TT, 1 INT, 8 PBU, 1 BLK); PK/P Mark Hamilton (8-of-9 FG, 67 points; 44 punts, 41.7 ypp)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB John Robertson, Jr. (169-for-247, 1,957 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT; 217 carries, 1,405 yards, 20 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Don Cherry, Jr. (99 TT, 12.5 TFL, 2 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Kevin Monangai, Sr. (130 carries, 643 yards, 5 TD)
RB Austin Medley, Sr. (54 carries, 310 yards, 1 TD)
RB Gary Underwood, Jr.
RB Javon White, Jr.
WR/RS Poppy Livers, Sr. (53 receptions, 580 yards, 3 TD)
WR Clay Horne, Sr.
WR Mike Burke, Jr.
WR Kevin Gulyas, Jr.
TE Earnest Pettway, Sr.
OL Vince Kowalski, Sr.
DE Reggie Paris, Jr.
DE Tanoh Kpassagnon, So.
NG Pat Williams, Sr. (19 TT, 8 TFL, 2.5 sacks)
LB Joey Harmon, Sr. (81 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF)
LB Dillon Lucas, Sr.
LB Corey Majors, Jr.
S Matt McCann, Jr.
S Cameron McCurry, Jr. (60 TT, 2 TFL, 4 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF, 1 BLK)
S Joe Sarnese, Sr. (46 TT, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
DB Jerry Miles, Sr.
OUTLOOK: A disappointing season of close losses serves as motivation for 'Nova, whose young talent continues to grow up quite nicely. The Wildcats are the most recent FCS national champions (2009) not named North Dakota State or Eastern Washington, but the deep CAA is basically as tough as the national scene. The 'Cats could very well have the top rushing attack in the conference, led by a dominant player in QB Robertson, the CAA preseason offensive player of the year. Yet they need RB Monangai to get back to his level of production in 2012, when he rushed for 1,210 yards and 11 touchdowns. Both players benefit from the return of two offensive linemen (Hall and Kowalski) who made the CAA preseason team. The line must provide better pass protection, however. On an athletic 3-3-5 defense, the linebackers unit (Cherry, Harmon, Lucas) is particularly deep. The Wildcats must survive a tough road portion to their schedule, but anything short of a bounce-back season would be disappointing.
Aug. 30 - at Syracuse
Sept. 6 - Fordham
Sept. 20 - James Madison
Sept. 27 - at Penn
Oct. 4 - at Maine
Oct. 11 - Rhode Island
Oct. 18 - at William & Mary
Oct. 25 - Morgan State
Nov. 1 - at Richmond
Nov. 8 - Towson
Nov. 15 - Albany
Nov. 22 - at Delaware
3. WILLIAM & MARY TRIBE
LOCATION: Williamsburg, Virginia
STADIUM: Zable Stadium
COACH: Jimmye Laycock (222-165-2 in 34 seasons at William & Mary)
LAST SEASON: 7-5 overall, 4-4 CAA (Tie/5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Michael Graham (81-for-152, 989 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT); QB Brent Caprio (75-for-135, 1,018 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT); S Jerome Couplin III (113 TT, 2.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Tre McBride, Sr. (63 receptions, 801 yards, 5 TD; 27.5- yard KO return average)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Mike Reilly, Sr. (47 TT, 13 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 4 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Christian Brumbaugh, Jr.
QB Raphael Ortiz, Sr. (injured last season)
QB Steve Cluley, So.
TB Mikal Abdul-Saboor, Jr. (175 carries, 824 yards, 6 TD)
TB Jarrell Cooper, Sr. (109 carries, 425 yards, 2 TD)
FB Darnell Laws, Sr.
TE Bo Revell, Sr.
WR/PR Sean Ballard, Sr. (36 receptions, 593 yards, 3 TD)
C Andrew Jones, Jr.
RG Domenic Martinelli, So.
LT Chris Durant, R-Fr.
RT Jerry Ugokwe, So.
DT Jasper Coleman, Sr. (41 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 QBH, 2 FR)
DT Tyler Claytor, Jr.
DE Steve Sinnott, Sr. (32 TT, 7 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 FR)
LB Luke Rhodes, Jr. (98 TT, 3 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
LB Airek Green, Sr. (82 TT, 13 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF)
FS Ivan Tagoe, Sr. (88 TT, 5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 8 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)
CB DeAndre Houston-Carson, Jr. (62 TT, 4.5 sacks, 2 INT, 11 PBU, 2 BLK)
SS Jared Velasquez, Jr. (56 TT, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 2 FF)
PK/P John Carpenter, Sr. (15-of-21 FG, 72 points; 64 punts, 39.5 ypp)
OUTLOOK: Having ranked second in the FCS in scoring defense (14 points per game) last season, the Tribe will look to beat up some more offenses again this year. There are eight starters back on defense, led by a Buck Buchanan Award nominee (Reilly), a fourth-year starter in fellow DE Sinnott, All-CAA preseason team CB Houston-Carson, and a superb linebacker duo in Rhodes and Green, who are both All-CAA standouts entering their third seasons as starters. The problem for the Tribe in recent seasons has been injuries and inconsistency at quarterback, where this season they will turn to Brumbaugh as Ortiz looks to get fully healthy again. There's plenty back at running back with Abdul-Saboor and Cooper leading the way, and McBride is one of the nation's top wide receivers as well as the 2013 CAA special teams player of the year. It should be a big season under Laycock, who is in his 35th season at William & Mary,
Aug. 30 - at Virginia Tech
Sept. 6 - at Hampton
Sept. 13 - Norfolk State
Sept. 20 - Lafayette
Sept. 27 - at Stony Brook
Oct. 11 - at New Hampshire
Oct. 18 - Villanova
Oct. 25 - Delaware
Nov. 1 - at James Madison
Nov. 8 - Elon
Nov. 15 - at Towson
Nov. 22 - Richmond
4. TOWSON TIGERS
LOCATION: Towson, Maryland
STADIUM: Johnny Unitas Stadium
COACH: Rob Ambrose (32-29 in five seasons at Towson; 35-36 overall)
LAST SEASON: 13-3 overall, 6-2 CAA (Tie/2nd); No. 2 TSN final ranking
STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (3 offense/7 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Peter Athens (256-for-397, 3,461 yards, 19 TD, 13 INT); RB Terrance West (413 carries, 2,509 yards, 41 TD); WR Leon Kinnard (43 receptions, 664 yards, 1 TD); RT Randall Harris; LT Erik Pike; LB Telvion Clark (145 TT, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 5 PBU, 3 FR, 5 FF); LB Monte Gaddis (124 TT, 8 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF); CB Jordan Love (64 TT, 2 TFL, 10 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Darius Victor, So. (98 carries, 629 yards, 7 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Tye Smith, Sr. (103 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT, 12 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF, 1 BLK)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Connor Frazier, Jr. (9-for-14, 141 yards; 39 carries, 215 yards, 2 TD; 11 receptions, 116 yards, 1 TD)
QB Joe Brennan, Sr.
RB Dontae Ayres, R-Fr. (Rutgers transfer)
FB Emmanuel Holder, Jr. (16 receptions, 172 yards, 3 TD)
WR Spencer Wilkins, Sr. (40 receptions, 691 yards, 4 TD)
WR/KR Derrick Joseph, Sr. (36 receptions, 379 yards, 1 TD; 23.3-yard KO return average, 2 TD)
WR/PR Brian Dowling, Sr. (32 receptions, 419 yards, 1 TD
WR Arione Scott, Jr.
LT Shayne Sullivan, So.
RT Jake Schunke, Jr.
RG Sam Evans, So.
DE Ryan Delaire, Sr. (68 TT, 17.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 8 QBH, 4 FR, 2 FF)
DE Drew Cheripko, Sr. (47 TT, 6 sacks, 4 QBH)
DT Jon Desir, Jr. (60 TT, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF)
DT Tungie Coker, Jr.
DT Max Tejada, So.
LB Bryton Barr, So. (injured last season)
LB Fred Overstreet, Sr.
OLB Walter Dunston, Jr.
FS Christian Carpenter, Jr. (98 TT, 3.5 TFL, 4 INT, 4 PBU, 2 FR)
CB Donnell Lewis, Jr. (95 TT, 4.5 TFL, 4 INT, 9 PBU, 2 FR, 4 FF)
OUTLOOK: The Tigers would never trade away last season's run to the FCS championship game, where they lost to North Dakota State, but they face uncertainty this season after losing a lot at quarterback, running back, linebacker and on the offensive line. The hardest spot to fill may not even be a 2,509-yard rusher in West (who's now a Cleveland Brown) but on the offensive line, which was decimated by graduation, and at quarterback. West was backed by the CAA offensive rookie of the year in Victor, who grabs the spotlight this season. The receiving corps is strong, but defenses will try to prey on the young offensive line. On defense, the secondary will be exceptional with CB Smith and FS Carpenter leading the way. The return of Barr, who had 74 tackles as a true freshman starter in 2012, is important considering the losses at linebacker. As Smith pointed out in the preseason, nobody wins a title in the preseason. With the way Ambrose has raised the level of talent so much, the Tigers likely can gut out some wins. A conference title isn't likely, but a playoff bid is attainable.
Aug. 30 - Central Connecticut State
Sept. 6 - at West Virginia
Sept. 13 - at Delaware State
Sept. 20 - North Carolina Central
Sept. 27 - Maine
Oct. 4 - Stony Brook
Oct. 11 - at James Madison
Oct. 18 - at Delaware
Nov. 1 - Elon
Nov 8 - at Villanova
Nov. 15 - William & Mary
Nov. 22 - at Rhode Island
5. RICHMOND SPIDERS
LOCATION: Richmond, Virginia
STADIUM: Robins Stadium
COACH: Danny Rocco (14-9 in two seasons at Richmond; 61-29 overall)
LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 4-4 CAA (Tie/5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (9 offense/6 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR/PR Ben Edwards (74 receptions, 706 yards, 5 TD; 31 carries, 138 yards, 1 TD); DE Kerry Wynn (56 TT, 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 5 QBH); DL Justin Williamson (31 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 QBH); LB Walt Sparks (84 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 2 FF); DB Wayne Pettus (48 TT, 5 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF, 2 BLK)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Michael Strauss, Sr. (333-for-509, 3,808 yards, 26 TD, 8 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Evan Kelly, Sr. (47 TT, 9 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Michael Rocco, Sr. (Virginia transfer)
RB Jacobi Green, Jr. (109 carries, 566 yards, 2 TD)
FB Seth Fisher, Jr. (90 carries, 426 yards, 3 TD)
WR Stephen Barnette, Sr. (76 receptions, 1,189 yards, 5 TD)
WR Reggie Diggs, Jr. (30 receptions, 380 yards, 1 TD)
WR Rashad Ponder, Sr. (45 receptions, 592 yards, 3 TD)
WR Brian Brown, So.
TE Hunter Westfall, Sr.
OL Nick Ritcher, Jr.
OL Austin Gund, Sr.
LB Aaron Roane, Sr. (67 TT, 7 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)
LB Eric Wright, Sr. (83 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)
DB Justin Grant, Sr. (80 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF)
DB Reggie Barnette, Sr. (78 TT, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 9 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)
DB Mylon Blueford, Sr.
DB Ayo Ogunniyi, Jr.
PK Brandon Jordi, Sr. (18-of-23 FG, 82 points)
OUTLOOK: A disappointing start to last season (2-6) led into a four-game winning streak which the Spiders are riding as they head into what could be an exceptional season. They were a CAA co-champion in 2012 and have a 22-member senior class this season. Danny Rocco, in his third campaign with the Spiders, will try to find snaps for both his starting QB Strauss (a Walter Payton Award nominee), and his nephew Michael, who made 21 start at Virginia before transferring to UR last year, only to sit out the season. WR Barnette will be the main target in an offense that will move the ball. The defense lost some key players (especially up front), but returns enough with DT Kelly leading the way that it will get the ball back to its offense. A home win over New Hampshire would likely set up the Spiders for title contention going into November. In eight seasons at Liberty and Richmond, Danny Rocco has never failed to finish at least .500 overall or in conference play, but he really needs to get over the hump and into the playoffs.
Aug. 30 - Morehead State
Sept. 6 - at Virginia
Sept. 13 - Hampton
Sept. 20 - New Hampshire
Oct. 4 - at Liberty
Oct. 11 - at Albany
Oct. 18 - Rhode Island
Oct. 25 - at Elon
Nov. 1 - Villanova
Nov. 8 - at Maine
Nov. 15 - James Madison
Nov. 22 - at William & Mary
6. STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES
LOCATION: Stony Brook, New York
STADIUM: LaValle Stadium
COACH: Chuck Priore (52-40 in nine seasons at Stony Brook; 93-49 overall)
LAST SEASON: 5-6 overall, 3-5 CAA (Tie/8th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense, 6 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Lyle Negron (167-for-288, 2,367 yards, 13 TD, 9 INT); WR Eugene Malcolm (57 receptions, 894 yards, 5 TD); WR/PR Will Tye (45 receptions, 520 yards, 4 TD); LB Jawara Dudley (64 TT, 7 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FR); DB Winston Longdon (51 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 6 PBU); P/PK Nick Ferrara (47 punts, 43.3 ypp)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Marcus Coker, Sr. (57 carries, 193 yards, 1 TD - injured last season)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB Christian Ricard, Sr. (91 TT, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 QBH)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB John Kinder, Sr. (Syracuse transfer)
QB Conor Bednarski, Jr.
QB Carlos Hernandez, So.
RB James Kenner, Sr. (191 carries, 829 yards, 5 TD);
RB Stacey Bedell, So. (Massachusetts transfer)
WR Adrian Coxson, Sr. (31 receptions, 544 yards, 3 TD)
TE Tanner Nehls, Sr.
TE Will Tye, Sr.
OL Mike Lisi, Sr.
OL Cody Precht, Sr.
DL Victor Ochi, Jr. (33 TT, 10 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF)
DL Dante Allen, Jr.
DL Kevin Hauter, Sr.
DL Aaron Thompson, Sr.
LB Julian Quintin, Jr.
LB Jeremy Leggiero, Jr.
DB Tyrice Beverette, R-Fr.
DB Jaheem Woods, So.
DB Quinton Littlejohn, R-Fr.
DB Davonte Anderson, Sr.
DB Naim Cheeseboro, Jr. (69 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU);
OUTLOOK: An early season injury to Coker (a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012) set the Seawolves back considerably in their first season in the CAA. Despite Kenner having a breakout season, the offense slumped to 144.3 rushing yards per game - the lowest average since Priore's first season in 2006. Add in Bedell, a transfer, to Coker's return and it's no surprise what the Seawolves will try to do offensively. But the loss of three starters on the offensive line is a huge concern for a team breaking in a new quarterback. The defense has solid contributors but not big names in a star-studded conference. There aren't the usual veteran leaders at linebacker (all three starters graduated), but the front and back ends of the defense will get the job done. In the CAA's unbalanced scheduling, the Seawolves won't play Villanova, Richmond and Delaware. That should at least give them a chance to get to .500 in conference games, but they're capable of even more than that.
Aug. 28 - Bryant
Sept. 6 - at Connecticut
Sept. 13 - American International
Sept. 20 - at North Dakota
Sept. 27 - William & Mary
Oct. 4 - at Towson
Oct. 11 - Maine
Oct. 18 - at Elon
Oct. 25 - at New Hampshire
Nov. 8 - James Madison
Nov. 15 - Rhode Island
Nov. 22 - at Albany
7. DELAWARE BLUE HENS
LOCATION: Newark, Delaware
STADIUM: Delaware Stadium
COACH: Dave Brock (7-5 in one season at Delaware)
LAST SEASON: 7-5 overall, 4-4 CAA (Tie/5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)
BIG LOSSES: RB Andrew Pierce (183 carries, 822 yards, 10 TD); WR/PR Rob Jones (43 receptions, 479 yards, 5 TD); OG Bobby Kennedy; C Brandon Heath; OT Erie Ladson; DE Zach Kerr (57 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF); PK Sean Baner (6-of-11 FG, 61 points); LB Jeff Williams (53 TT, 3 TFL, 2 FR); CB Travis Hawkins (66 TT, 4 INT, 4 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Michael Johnson, Sr. (60 receptions, 1,035 yards, 9 TD; 13 carries, 159 yards, 2 TD; 20.9-yard KO return average)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Pat Callaway, Sr. (120 TT, 5 TFL, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Trent Hurley, Sr. (172-for-268, 2,207 yards, 22 TD, 7 INT)
RB Jalen Randolph, So. (63 carries, 319 yards, 5 TD)
RB Wes Hills, So.
WR Jerel Harrison, Jr. (36 receptions, 350 yards, 1 TD)
TE/HB Ryan Cobb, Sr.
TE Nick Boyle, Sr. (42 receptions, 474 yards, 7 TD)
OT Ben Curtis, Jr.
OG J.D. Dzurko, Sr.
OL Brody Kern, R-Fr.
OL Connor Bozick, So.
DE Vince Hollerman, Jr. (32 TT, 6.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 FF)
DE Derrick Saulsberry, Sr. (48 TT, 14 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 BLK)
DE Laith Wallschleger, Sr.
DT Josh Plummer, Jr.
LB David Mackall, Sr. (75 TT, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF);
SS Craig Brodsky, Jr.
FS Mario Rowson, Sr. (79 TT, 1 INT, 3 PBU)
CB Jordan Thomas, Sr.
CB Roman Tatum, So.
DB Jake Giusti, Sr.
P Eric Enderson, So. (60 punts, 45 ypp)
OUTLOOK: A three-game losing streak to end last season - after they beat Towson - ruined the Blue Hens' chance of reaching the FCS playoffs in Brock's first season. It was the third straight year and fifth time in six years being on the postseason sideline (they played in the FCS title game in 2010). QB Hurley will become the first Blue Hen to start three straight years at quarterback since Matt Nagy in 1998-2000. But he needs to stay healthier to work the ball around to his receivers, including WR Johnson and TE Boyle, who are among the best in the FCS at their positions. The bulk of the running game will be handed to Randolph after Pierce's graduation, but the offensive line is replacing three starters. Their defensive leader returns in LB Callaway, but Brock is looking for considerable improvement all-around. The pass defense struggled last November and needs to get back on track after ranking second- worst in the conference. This is a big season for the program as their passionate fan base continues to grow unhappy while the Blue Hens have been good but not good enough.
Aug. 30 - at Pittsburgh
Sept. 6 - Delaware State
Sept. 13 - Colgate
Sept. 27 - at James Madison
Oct. 4 - Sacred Heart
Oct. 11 - Elon
Oct. 18 - Towson
Oct. 25 - at William & Mary
Nov. 1 - Rhode Island
Nov. 8 - at Albany
Nov. 15 - at New Hampshire
Nov. 22 - Villanova
8. MAINE BEARS
LOCATION: Orono, Maine
STADIUM: Alfond Stadium
COACH: Jack Cosgrove (121-121 in 21 seasons at Maine)
LAST SEASON: 10-3 overall, 7-1 CAA (1st); No. 12 TSN final ranking
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (5 offense, 8 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Marcus Wasilewski (276-for-409, 3,238 yards, 25 TD, 9 INT; 156 carries, 532 yards, 3 TD); RB Rickey Stevens (128 carries, 757 yards, 6 TD); WR John Ebeling (60 receptions, 647 yards, 6 TD); TE Justin Perillo (39 receptions, 490 yards, 4 TD); OL Jeff Gakos; OL Joe Hook; DE Michael Cole (27 TT, 11 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF); CB Kendall James (36 TT, 2.5 TFL, 2 INT, 9 PBU, 1 BLK); DB Troy Eastman (78 TT, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PBU); DB Michael Mangiarelli (47 TT, 2 INT, 4 PBU); DB Jamal Clay (47 TT, 4 TFL, 4 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Damarr Aultman, Sr. (46 receptions, 550 yards, 5 TD; 25- yard KO return average, 1 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga, So. (118 TT, 4 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Dan Collins, So.
RB Nigel Jones, Jr. (131 carries, 596 yards, 8 TD)
WR Jordan Dunn, So.
WR Arthur Williams, Sr.
TE Sean Reuss, So.
C Bruce Johnson, Jr.
RG Daniel Carriker, Jr.
DE Trevor Bates, Jr. (54 TT, 9 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 FF, 1 BLK)
DE Michael Kozlakowski, Jr.
DL Devin Clark, Sr.
DT Patrick Ricard, So. (59 TT, 6 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR)
NT Matt Wilson, Sr.
DL Darius Greene, So.
LB Cabrinni Goncalves, Jr. (101 TT, 15 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 7 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FF)
LB Randy Samuels, Jr.
CB Axel Ofori, Sr. (49 TT, 3 INT, 10 PBU)
CB Sherrod Baltimore, Jr.
FS Khari Al-Mateen, Sr.
SS Davonte Burke, So.
PK Sean Decloux, Jr. (16-of-21 FG, 93 points)
OUTLOOK: The Black Bears are still unheralded, picked seventh in the CAA preseason poll after winning last year's CAA title as the eighth preseason choice. They lost a strong senior class, including the CAA first-team quarterback in Wasilewski, so the analysis might be more on target than last year. But don't tell the Black Bears. They still have a "Black Hole" defense which ranked third in the conference in total defense (342.2 ypg) and scoring defense (22.1 ppg) last season. The experienced unit is highlighted by tackle leaders Mulumba Tshimanga and Goncalves at linebacker. Where they aren't experienced is at quarterback, and Cosgrove, now in his 22nd season, hopes Collins can mature quickly and mesh with some excellent weapons in RB Jones and WR Aultman. PK Decloux set a school record with 16 field goals last season. The first two conference games (at Towson and Villanova) are a rough way to get started in the CAA.
Aug. 30 - Norfolk State
Sept. 13 - at Bryant
Sept. 20 - at Boston College
Sept. 27 - at Towson
Oct. 4 - Villanova
Oct. 11 - at Stony Brook
Oct. 18 - Albany
Oct. 25 - at Rhode Island
Nov. 8 - Richmond
Nov. 15 - at Elon
Nov. 22 - New Hampshire
9. JAMES MADISON DUKES
LOCATION: Harrisonburg, Virginia
STADIUM: Bridgeforth Stadium
COACH: Everett Withers (first season at James Madison; 7-6 overall)
LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 3-5 CAA (Tie/8th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (7 offense, 4 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Michael Birdsong (227-for-376, 2,728 yards, 22 TD, 15 INT; 129 carries, 310 yards, 3 TD); RB/PR Dae'Quan Scott (239 carries, 1,40 yards, 8 TD; 40 receptions, 329 yards, 3 TD); WR Quintin Hunter (33 receptions, 491 yards, 3 TD); RT Josh Wells; LG Scott Jones; RG A.J. Scott; DT Bingham Togia (36 TT, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR); DE Jordan Stanton (56 TT, 11.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH); DE Tyler Snow (47 TT, 8.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 PBU, 7 QBH, 1 FR); LB Stephon Robertson (141 TT, 17 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 4 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF); PK Cameron Starke (12-of-17 FG, 69 points)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Vad Lee, Jr. (Georgia Tech transfer)
DEFENSIVE STAR: SS/PR Dean Marlowe, Sr. (77 TT, 1 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Khalid Abdullah, So. (67 carries, 341 yards, 3 TD)
WR Daniel Brown, Sr. (42 receptions, 665 yards, 8 TD)
WR Brandon Ravenel, So. (20 receptions, 312 yards, 1 TD)
TE/FB Deane Cheatham, Jr. (19 receptions, 204 yards, 4 TD)
LT Matt Cunningham, Sr.
C Matt Williams, Sr.
DE Brandon Lee, Sr. (39 TT, 10 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FF)
NG Alex Mosley, Jr. (40 TT, 4 sacks, 1 QBH)
DT Sage Harold, Sr. (19 TT, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 3 QBH, 3 FF)
LB Gage Steele, So. (106 TT, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 5 PBU, 3 FF)
LB Titus Till, Sr. (62 TT, 3 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 QBH)
CB Kwe'shon Williams, So. (54 TT, 3 INT, 8 PBU)
CB Taylor Reynolds, So. (35 TT, 1 FR)
SS Raven Greene, So. (37 TT, 4 PBU, 1 FR)
WS Jeremiah Wilson, Sr. (35 TT, 1 FR)
P Connor Arnone, Jr.
OUTLOOK: Withers spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio State, so he knows what it's like to be at the highest level of Division I. The Dukes hope to be headed to the FBS someday, but they've still underachieved in recent seasons, which cost 15-year coach Mickey Matthews his job. Withers will push for an aggressive defense, which will have an improved secondary (led by Marlowe) after it struggled last season. LB Steele was a gem as a freshman, but the Dukes also lost Robertson, the 2013 CAA defensive player of the year, after last season. The addition of former Georgia Tech starting QB Lee led to Birdsong transferring out of JMU. Lee struggled as a passer at Georgia Tech but is a terrific runner. Speaking of runners, Abdullah showed promise as a freshman last season. The Dukes are 15-2 at home the last three seasons, but three of their first four games are on the road against tough opponents. A playoff bid would be a good start to the Withers era.
Aug. 30 - at Maryland
Sept. 6 - at Lehigh
Sept. 13 - Saint Francis (Pa.)
Sept. 20 - at Villanova
Sept. 27 - Delaware
Oct. 4 - at Albany
Oct. 11 - Towson
Oct. 25 - at Charlotte
Nov. 1 - William & Mary
Nov. 8 - at Stony Brook
Nov. 15 - at Richmond
Nov. 22 - Elon
10. RHODE ISLAND RAMS
LOCATION: Kingston, Rhode Island
STADIUM: Meade Stadium
COACH: Jim Fleming (first season at Rhode Island; 21-1 overall)
LAST SEASON: 3-9 overall, 2-6 CAA (10th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (7 offense, 3 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Bob Bentsen (178-for-320, 1,669 yards, 9 TD, 10 INT; 112 carries, 390 yards, 2 TD); OL Andrew Belizaire; DL Shomari Watts (38 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU; 1 FR); DE James Timmins (53 TT, 13.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 2 FF); DL Josh Moody (37 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF, 4 BLK); LB Dave Zocco (52 TT, 6 TFL, 1 PBU); LB Doug Johnson (46 TT, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 1 PBU); DB Andre' Scott (65 TT, 3.5 TFL, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR); DB Mackenzie Elliott (49 TT, 3 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/PR Robbie Jackson, Sr. (61 receptions, 574 yards, 5 TD; 10.9-yard punt return average)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Andrew Bose, Sr. (75 TT, 7 TFL, 3 PBU, 2 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Kolt Peavey, Jr. (16-for-42, 248 yards, 1 TD)
QB Luke Casey, R-Fr.
QB Mack Lowrie, R-Fr.
RB Eerin Young, So. (71 carries, 224 yards)
RB Robbie Delgado, Jr. (158 carries, 483 yards, 3 TD)
RB Lyle McCombs, Sr. (Connecticut transfer)
RB/RS Harold Cooper, Fr.
FB Justin Favreau, Sr.
WR Jawaun Wynn, Sr. (36 receptions, 408 yards, 1 TD)
WR Ross Kim, Jr.
WR Andrew Matos, So.
LT Tyler Catalina, So.
LG Andrew Kestenbaum, Sr.
DE Blake Jones, Sr.
DT Robert Howard, Sr.
LB Adam Parker, So. (41 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 FF)
LB Naiquan Thomas, So.
CB Tyrone Jenkins, Jr.
CB Abdul Ibrahim, So.
DB Tim Wienclaw, Jr. (73 TT, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 3 FR, 2 FF)
S Donovan Walker, Sr. (45 TT, 2 PBU)
PK Dylan Smith, Jr. (8-of-10 FG, 39 points)
OUTLOOK: Fleming, a former head coach at Sacred Heart and most recently the defensive coordinator at UCF, is faced with the difficult task of trying to turn the Rams into a consistent program. He felt his team embraced the fresh start during the offseason. He's changed the defense from a 4-2-5 unit to 4-3, but there are only three returning starters on that side of the ball. The quick maturation of LB Parker last season gives the defense a solid duo with Bose, who made the CAA preseason team. SS Wienclaw has started all 33 games in his career. On offense, Fleming will utilize multiple formations to raise what was by far the lowest-scoring unit (13.2 ppg) in the CAA. There's a battle going on at quarterback (Peavey was the primary backup last season), but the starter will have an excellent weapon in WR Jackson. Delgado was the team's leading rusher a year ago and Young impressed considerably in the spring, but the arrival of UConn transfer McCombs is a big factor as well. There will be progress in Fleming's first season.
Sept. 6 - at Marshall
Sept. 13 - at Fordham
Sept. 20 - Albany
Sept. 27 - at Central Connecticut State
Oct. 4 - Brown
Oct. 11 - at Villanova
Oct. 18 - at Richmond
Oct. 25 - Maine
Nov. 1 - at Delaware
Nov. 8 - New Hampshire
Nov. 15 - at Stony Brook
Nov. 22 - Towson
11. ALBANY GREAT DANES
LOCATION: Albany, New York
STADIUM: Bob Ford Field
COACH: Greg Gattuso (first season at Albany; 97-32 overall)
LAST SEASON: 1-11 overall, 0-8 CAA (11th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (8 offense/5 defense)
BIG LOSSES: LT Kadeem Williams; C Eric LaPorta; WR/KR Kevin Chillis (59 receptions, 664 yards, 5 TD); DT Andrew Smith (61 TT, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 PBU); OLB Alex Helmer (65 TT, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 1 FF); CB Clay Harris (29 TT, 5 PBU, 1 FR); FS Tramaine Wilson (39 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR); CB Randall Exantus (83 TT, 4 TFL, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 FF)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Omar Osbourne, Sr. (277 carries, 1,206 yards, 12 TD; 23 receptions, 163 yards)
DEFENSIVE STAR: ILB Christian Dorsey, Sr. (85 TT, 1.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Will Fiacchi, Sr. (207-for-372, 2,358 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT)
HB Nic Ketter, So.
WR Cole King, Sr. (37 receptions, 436 yards)
WR Brad Harris, R-Fr.
TE Brian Parker, Sr. (30 receptions, 355 yards, 2 TD)
LG Michael Senn, So.
RG Adam Wierbinski, So.
RT Adam Pasnik, Jr.
NG Tim Kologrivov, Sr.
NG Cory Connell, Jr.
ILB Marcel Ngachie, So. (44 TT, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF)
OLB Michael Nicastro, So. (62 TT, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 FR)
SS T.J. Idowu, Sr. (94 TT, 2.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 FF)
CB Rayshan Clark, So.
PK Tom O'Riordan, Jr. (11-of-16 FG, 55 points)
P Jon Martin, So.
OUTLOOK: Bob Ford has retired as head coach after 44 years, so Albany football will have a much different feel this season. The 52-year-old Gattuso doesn't have an Albany background, most recently spent three seasons on the staff at Maryland. He will open up the offense a bit and take advantage of the strong senior duo of All-CAA RB Osbourne and QB Fiacchi, a third-year starter. They are part of an offense that returns eight starters. Opposing quarterbacks preyed on the Great Danes secondary, so Gattuso needs to find an answer alongside his new defensive coordinator Bob Bensen, the former Georgetown head coach. Top tacklers Idowu and Dorsey are both back this season. As they head into their second season in the CAA, the Great Danes are still looking for their first conference win.
Aug. 30 - Holy Cross
Sept. 6 - at Central Connecticut State
Sept. 20 - at Rhode Island
Sept. 27 - Columbia
Oct. 4 - James Madison
Oct. 11 - Richmond
Oct. 18 - at Maine
Oct. 25 - Colgate
Nov. 1 - at New Hampshire
Nov. 8 - Delaware
Nov. 15 - at Villanova
Nov. 22 - Stony Brook
12. ELON PHOENIX
LOCATION: Elon, North Carolina
STADIUM: Rhodes Stadium
COACH: Rick Skrosky (first season)
LAST SEASON: 2-10 overall, 1-7 Southern Conference (Tie/8th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR Rasaun Rorie (59 receptions, 735 yards, 5 TD); OL Clay Johnson; DE Jordan Jones (37 TT, 5.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 6 QBH); DE Jay Brown (32 TT, 7 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH); DB Chandler Wrighenberry (59 TT, 2.5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 PBU); DB Edward Burns (53 TT, 2 INT, 6 PBU); DB David Wood (51 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Mike Quinn, Sr. (275-for-442, 2,618 yards, 17 TD, 9 INT)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jonathan Spain, Sr. (84 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB John Loughery, So.
RB Karl Bostick, Sr. (110 carries, 421 yards, 4 TD)
RB B.J. Bennett, So. (123 carries, 464 yards, 4 TD)
RB Tracey Coppedge, Jr. (90 carries, 431 yards, 2 TD)
WR/RS Kierre Brown, Sr. (50 receptions, 448 yards, 2 TD; 24.2-yard KO return average)
WR Andre Davis, Jr. (42 receptions, 460 yards, 3 TD)
TE Doug Warrick, Jr.
LT Graham Albright, R-Fr.
C Austin Sowell, Sr.
OL Thomas McGuire, Jr.
OL Gordn Acha, So.
DL Dustin Ruff, Sr. (49 TT, 4 TFL, 1 PBU, 3 QBH)
LB/DE Alexander Dawson, Jr. (70 TT, 4 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FF)
LB John Silas, So. (71 TT, 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 QBH)
DB Jeremy Gloston, Jr. (41 TT, 3 TFL, 1 PBU)
PK John Gallagher, So. (13-of-23 FG, 70 points)
P David Petroni, So. (73 punts, 42.1 ypp)
OUTLOOK: Yet another CAA team with a first-year head coach, Elon also has to get acclimated to its new conference this season after moving over from the Southern Conference. Skrosky served on the Elon staff from 2006-10 and spent the last three seasons as Ball State's offensive coordinator. He will like some of his new tools. The Phoenix come from a run-oriented conference, but have thrown the ball well in recent seasons, including with QB Quinn a year ago. They also return three different running backs (Bennett, Coppedge and Bostick) who rushed for more than 400 yards. The defense surrendered nearly 470 yards per game. It is driven by its linebackers because the unit lost a lot to graduation on the D-line and in the secondary. Albany and Rhode Island aren't on their CAA schedule (along with Villanova), so the Phoenix aren't helped by it.
Aug. 30 - at Duke
Sept. 13 - North Carolina A&T
Sept. 20 - Charlotte
Sept. 27 - at Coastal Carolina
Oct. 4 - New Hampshire
Oct. 11 - at Delaware
Oct. 18 - Stony Brook
Oct. 25 - Richmond
Nov. 1 - at Towson
Nov. 8 - at William & Mary
Nov. 15 - Maine
Nov. 22 - at James Madison