Tribe Football: 2016 Season Predictions

New Stadium
Head Coach Jimmye Laycock looks on toward what could be the Tribe’s biggest season in years. (photo via. TribeAthletics.com)

After last season’s schedule breakdown established credibility (we correctly projected the Tribe’s regular season record of 8-3! No big deal), the pressure is on to continue the streak.

The team is excited for the season to start, and they have reason to be. William & Mary has consistently ranked in the top 10 in the preseason rankings, ranging from a high of #6 nationally (Sporting News) to a low of #13 (Athlon). The FCS Stats Poll, considered the highest regarded poll (along with the coaches poll), was released just a couple days ago, and ranked the Tribe at #9 in the nation.

Last season, the Tribe finished the regular season 8-3, claiming a share of the CAA Championship and qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in 5 years. They even hosted a home playoff game, where the Tribe defeated the Duquesne Dukes by a score of 52-49 in an absolute thriller.

This season, the Tribe returns 16 starters (8 on offense, 6 on defense, 2 on special teams), including 10 All-Conference selections, and an All-American kicker in Nick Dorka. Oh yeah, and have you seen the beautifully renovated Zable Stadium (photos courtesy of Equipment Manager Big Jeff Shildt)? The Tribe will open up its new stadium when Norfolk State comes to town on September 17th, and we cannot wait for the fans to see all that Zable now has to offer. But enough talk. Let’s break down the Green and Gold’s 2016 schedule.

nc state
Week 1 (September 1): at NC State (7:30 PM, ESPN3)

NC State (7-6 last season, 3-5 ACC) lost their quarterback from a season ago, as Jacoby Brissett was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. Currently, three quarterbacks are dueling in Raleigh for the rights to be the starting quarterback. Whichever way you look at it, the Wolfpack will have an inexperienced QB when they suit up for its first game of the season against the Tribe. That bodes well for a Tribe defense.

William & Mary has had a string of “success” against FBS schools, including last year’s thrilling game at UVA. While the Tribe has certainly put the pressure on FBS schools, they have yet to close the deal since the 2009 victory over UVA. However, this year’s Tribe team is one of the best in recent memory, and the Tribe will look to pull off the biggest upset since UVA back in 2009.

Let’s not forget that the Tribe basketball team travelled to play the Wolfpack  last season and won by a score of 85-68–a true butt kicking. When it was all said and done, the Tribe notched a 17-point victory over an ACC opponent on the road in front of 16,000 sad NC State fans. We are hoping for similar things come September 1st. Even though we definitely think the Tribe can win, we’ll stay conservative on this one and say the Tribe starts the year 0-1 (we still believe).

Prediction: LOSS (0-1)

 

hampton thumb
Week 2 (September 10): at Hampton (6:00 PM)

After returning from Raleigh, the Tribe will have a week and a half to prepare for the Hampton Pirates (6-5, 5-3 MEAC).

William and Mary seems to play the Hampton Pirates every year. Last season’s game (Homecoming) ended in a 40-7 mauling in Williamsburg, advantage Tribe. The Pirates didn’t register a point until the end of the third quarter, and the W&M offense exploded for 526 yards of total offense.

They do say that playing on the road is always harder than playing at home. However, the last time the Tribe visited Hampton, they won by a score of 42-14. A top-10 ranked Tribe team should have no problem handling the Pirates on the road.

Prediction: WIN (1-1)

 

norfolk state
Week 3 (September 17): vs. Norfolk State (6:00 PM)

This game has been circled on Tribe fans’ schedules for a long time, as it will be the first game in the new Zable Stadium. The crowd should be raucous, as the Tribe looks to defend its home turf and extend their home winning streak to 7 games.

Norfolk State (4-7, 4-4 MEAC) plays in the MEAC along with the aforementioned Hampton Pirates. Don’t let last season’s record fool you, as this Spartan team is led by a talented senior quarterback in Greg Hankerson. Hankerson was a preseason second team All-Conference selection, throwing for 2052 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, while also adding 423 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground.

If last year’s Delaware game is any indication (don’t get us started), the Tribe has struggled with dual-threat quarterbacks. So, while W&M should win this one, they should not take the Spartans lightly.

Prediction: WIN (2-1)

 

elon phoenix
Week 4 (September 24): vs. Elon (7:00 PM) – FAMILY WEEKEND

Last season, William and Mary travelled to Elon (4-7, 3-5 CAA) and scored on 5 of its first 6 possessions to lead 27-0 at half. This game was a collective effort where both the offense and defense flexed their muscles, and the Tribe won easily, 34-13.

We expect more of the same this season, especially with the Tribe playing at home. Elon, which joined the CAA just two seasons ago (2014), is still trying to find its footing in the league. We hope that they will become a formidable force, but this year’s Tribe team will prove too much for the Phoenix in this one.

Prediction: WIN (3-1)

 

UNH thumb
Week 5 (October 1): at UNH (3:30 PM)

After opening up CAA play at home against Elon, the Tribe will travel to New Hampshire to take on the Wildcats (7-5, 5-3 CAA). After starting the season 3-4, UNH went on a 4 game win streak to end the season and finish 7-4. They clinched a spot in the playoffs, and extended their playoff streak to 12 consecutive years, the longest in all of FCS.

The last time the Tribe travelled to UNH, it was a battle of two top-10 teams. UNH got the better of the Tribe that day, winning by a score of 32-3. UNH is a very good team at home, much like the Tribe. Aside from the NC State game, this will be the first tough test for the Tribe.

We think that this game can go either way, and we see it as an early turning point in the season. Either the team ends up winning on the road and improves to 4-1, or falls to 3-2 heading into a tough away game the following week against JMU. Huge game.

Prediction: WIN (4-1)

 

JMU thumb
Week 6 (October 8): at JMU (3:30 PM) 

After a long road trip to UNH, the Tribe will turn around and travel to Harrisonburg to take on the JMU Dukes (9-3, 6-2 CAA). W&M will look to win in Harrisonburg for the first time since 2004, a span of 12 years. Yes, we can’t believe it either. Last season’s thriller ended in a 44-41 Tribe victory against JMU and its young QB, Bryan Schor. It remains to be seen who will be starting at QB this season for the Dukes; while Schor played admirably in relief of injured superstar QB Vad Lee (who now plays for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL), JMU landed a former 4-star transfer QB from the University ofSouth Carolina, Connor Mitch. Definitely a camp battle to watch.

While W&M pulled the game out at home last year, Tribe fans would like to forget the last time the Tribe visited JMU. The team had an 11 point lead late in the fourth quarter, but allowed 18 unanswered points to fall 31-24. Any way you look at it, this game will be a battle of two of the top teams in the CAA, both ranked in the top 15 nationally in the preseason polls.

Prediction: LOSS (4-2)

 

UD
Week 7 (October 15th): vs. Delaware (3:30 PM) – HOMECOMING

Delaware… where do we even start. Last season, William and Mary gave up 347 rushing yards (yes, 347) against the Blue Hens and fell on a game-winning, last-second field goal 24-23. That one stung, and likely cost the Tribe a first round bye in the playoffs.

This season, the Tribe will take on Delaware at home in front of a large Homecoming crowd. Zable will be rocking, and W&M will look to extract revenge from the Blue Hens. We don’t see the Tribe faltering in this one, and predict an easy win at home.

Prediction: WIN (5-2)

 

Week 8 (October 22nd): BYE

Ahh yes, the Tribe finally gets a good bye week this year. Last season, the Tribe had a week 2 bye, which is probably the worst time of the season to have a week off. William and Mary found itself playing 10 games in a row before the playoffs, and ended the season playing 12 games without a rest.

This season, William and Mary gets a much needed bye before its final four games. We are hoping that the Tribe sits at around 5-2 this week, or with some luck, 6-1.

 

maine thumb
Week 9 (October 29th): vs. Maine (3:30 PM)

After the BYE week, William and Mary will host the visiting Maine Black Bears (3-8, 3-5 CAA). After winning the CAA back in 2013 with a 10-3 overall record, Maine has posted back to back losing seasons.

The Black Bears will have to make the long trek down to Williamsburg (837 miles, to be exact), and might be feeling the pain of that in this one. Combine that with William and Mary’s extra rest, and we predict a big win. The Tribe will look to add a much needed W before their brutal three game stretch to end the season, which begins on the road against Stony Brook.

Prediction: WIN (6-2)

 

SBU thumb
Week 10 (November 5th): at Stony Brook

Next, the Tribe will travel to New York to take on Stony Brook (5-5, 3-5 CAA). On Family Weekend a season ago, William & Mary blanked the visiting Seawolves by a score of 21-0.

The last time William and Mary traveled to Stony Brook, QB Steve Cluley connected on a game-tying 52-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Sean Ballard with just 0:25 remaining. RB Mikal Abdul-Saboor would add a 13-yard touchdown run to seal the deal for the Tribe in overtime.

Hopefully, W&M will be sitting pretty in the standings when they travel to Stony Brook. The Seawolves are typically known for their stellar defense and a mediocre offense. This game may pan out to be one of the top offenses in William and Mary vs. one of the top defenses in Stony Brook. This will surely be a cold one in New York, and we hope that W&M’s ground game  will prevail in this one.

Prediction: WIN (7-2)

 

towson
Week 11 (November 12th): at Towson

Coming home from New York, the Tribe will travel to Maryland to take on the Towson Tigers (7-4, 5-3 CAA). Towson has been ranked in the top-25 in almost all preseason polls, so this will not be an easy one for the Tribe. Towson running back and preseason 1st team all-CAA selection Darius Victor will play a significant role in this game; William and Mary’s defense will have to be on its “A” game to stop him.

Luckily, the Tribe has had Towson’s number in recent years. Over the past two seasons, W&M has outscored Towson by a margin of 68-31. We hope that the Tribe can beat a formidable Towson squad in this one, getting out of the game with little to no injuries before heading into the all-important final game against arch-rival Richmond.

Prediction: WIN (8-2)

 

Richmond
Week 12 (November 19th): vs. Richmond

Richmond, Richmond, Richmond…. any word even hinting at the Richmond Spiders brings dismay to Tribe fans everywhere. It is no secret that William and Mary has lost to Richmond 5 years in a row, including 10 of the past 12 seasons. For the previous three seasons, Richmond (10-4, 6-2 CAA) has spoiled the chance for the Tribe to make the playoffs (in 2013 and 2014), and earn a first round bye (2015).

The Capital Cup is one of the oldest collegiate American Football rivalries, played between the University of Richmond and William and Mary. The contest is the third most played game in college football, currently standing at 126 games. William and Mary leads the overall series (61-60-5). Can the Green and Gold maintain the lead?

Richmond comes into this season as the favorites in the CAA and are ranked in the top 5 nationally in every preseason poll. It is no surprise that they are the favorites after surviving to the Semi-Finals of the FCS Playoffs last year, where they fell to the eventual champion North Dakota State Bison and the NFL’s Carson Wentz.

steve cluley
Senior QB Steve Cluley is poised for a big season. [photo: Baltimore Sun]
If William and Mary wants to have a chance in this one, they will need to stop the run. Richmond running back Jacobi Green ran for 358 yards and four touchdowns in just 2 games against the Tribe. Though Green graduated, William and Mary will need to tighten up the run defense in this one to have a shot.

On offense, the Tribe will need to minimize turnovers and win the battle in the trenches. William and Mary had 7 turnovers in the 2 games against Richmond last year. No one can win averaging 3.5 turnovers a game, especially against a top 5 team. If the Tribe can limit the turnovers and win the battles in the trenches, establishing holes for superstar Kendell Anderson, while keeping Steve Cluley upright, William and Mary has a chance to pull off an upset at home and establish themselves as the preeminent team in the CAA.

Prediction: See below…

Conclusion

This is one of the best William and Mary teams in recent memory. If everything goes as planned, the Tribe might also have one of the most prolific offenses in the team’s history. The unit features a 3 year starting QB, a first team All-CAA RB, a line that features 4 players with 3 years of starting experience, a first team All-CAA TE, and super fast receivers with a ton of depth at the position.

While the defense lost a great deal in terms of starters, this team has a lot of young players ready to make the leap. If the defense can play as well as it did last season (where it gave up just 22.7 points per game), and the offense plays as expected, then the sky is the limit for this team.

kendell anderson
RB Kendell Anderson looks to continue the Tribe’s tradition of strong running backs this season. [photo: Gregory Payan / AP]
We truly think that this year could be the year that the Tribe defeats an FBS team in NC State, but we won’t predict it (can’t jinx us). The hardest part of the schedule will be the back to back away games at UNH and at JMU, which we hope the Tribe can at least split. Richmond is, well, Richmond. If we beat the teams we should beat, and split against UNH/JMU, the Tribe will be sitting at 8-2 heading into their final game against Richmond.

Based on these predictions, William and Mary will be riding a 10 game home winning streak (including last season) before taking on the Spiders in a game that will surely be one of the most anticipated in quite some time. It will also be the last regular season game for seniors such as Steve Cluley and Kendell Anderson, a battle of two top 10 (and potentially top 5) opponents, one of the most hyped up and anticipated games of the FCS season, and one of the biggest games in Williamsburg in the newly renovated Zable Stadium. We are picking the Tribe to finally DEFEAT RICHMOND and send them home packing. With a win at home, we at the Blog predict the Tribe to finish the season 9-2, with a BYE in the playoffs followed by a home playoff game.

We are beyond excited for this season to start. September 1st can’t come soon enough! Please let us know where you think the Tribe will end up this season by voting in our poll below!

Equipment Staff Predictions

Since one of us here at the W&M Sports Blog works on the Equipment Staff for the football team, we thought it would be fun to add the predictions of our crew (minus myself who wrote this article). Here they are:

Jeff Shildt: 11-0

Nathan Setka: 7-4

Kevin Schweiss: 6-5

As always, thanks for reading, and ROLL TRIBE!!!

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