Tribe Football: 2017 Season Predictions

A Captain on this year’s 2017 squad, CB Aaron Swinton will again lead a deep defensive backfield this Fall. [photo: tribeathletics.com]
It’s that time of year again! The Stats FCS preseason rankings have been published, summer seems to be on its last legs, and, apparently, a solar eclipse is happening this week! What more can you ask for? To get you reared up and motivated for this season, we decided to offer a preview of this year’s schedule. With opponent-by-opponent analysis, we’ll make some bold predictions in forecasting a potential win/loss scenario for the Green and Gold this season.

And before we get started, keep in mind that there are a few things that need to unfold before this season officially gets underway in a couple weeks. The most glaring of which is that Jimmye Laycock still needs to select a starting quarterback to open the season under center against UVA. Rumors coming out of camp suggest that it’ll be one of three players: junior Tommy McKee, sophomore Brandon Battle, or true freshman Shon Mitchell. Any way you slice it, W&M will have a new man under center to start the season, and as such, current-state question marks centered around the most important position make it hard to forecast a win/loss at this point. But…we’ll do it anyway, because why not?

But one thing is for certain: we sure are ready for this UVA game. So let’s get to it! Roll Tribe Roll.

W&M Sports Blog 2017 Season Predictions

Week 1 (September 2): at UVA (3:30 PM, ESPN3)

As we all know, William & Mary’s last FBS win came against UVA back in ’09. The Tribe also played UVA very close two seasons ago in Charlottesville, losing by only 6 points.

The Cavaliers are coming off a horrible season, where they finished just 2-10. Are you surprised? We sure are not. UVA went on a 7-game losing streak to end the year, and were beaten by CAA foe Richmond in week 1…by a not-so-close score of 37-20. The good news is, Richmond proved that a talented FCS team certainly has more than enough to knock off the Cavaliers. The bad news? After last season’s defeat against the Spiders, UVA will certainly not take W&M lightly.

Look for this game to be closer than projected, but UVA has the tools to come out on top in the end. Last season was Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall‘s first full year at the helm for the Hoos. Look for things to improve this year (or for his seat to start heating up). As stated in the intro, whoever starts at QB for the Tribe will be going into his first career start in an FBS atmosphere (and potential college atmosphere in general), which is not typically a recipe for success.

If you recall, Steve Cluley was thrown into the fire his first career start at Virginia Tech, a game in which the Tribe was handily dismantled by a superior Hokies team. We don’t expect that to happen in this year’s contest, as UVA is certainly not Virginia Tech (not that the Hokies are the greatest team in the land either). Again, we think it can be close, but the Hoos should come out on top. Even still, we believe! #2009 #NeverForget

Prediction: LOSS (0-1)


Week 2 (September 9): at Norfolk State (6:00 PM)

This season will mark the 3rd time in the past 4 years that W&M has played the Norfolk State Spartans. The difference this year is that the game will be hosted by the Spartans, rather than the Tribe. That doesn’t worry us too much, though. The Green and Gold’s average margin of victory against Norfolk State the past two seasons has been 20 points.

This game will be big for the confidence of whichever QB ends up starting for the the Tribe. Any way you look at it, we can’t see the Tribe losing this one.

Prediction: WIN (1-1)


Week 3 (September 16): vs. Bucknell (6:00 PM) – FAMILY WEEKEND

On family weekend, W&M will face off against an unfamiliar opponent in the Bucknell Bison. Hailing from the Patriot League, the Bison finished 4-7 last season, and 3-3 in league play. Bucknell did beat Lafayette last year, a decent team the Tribe faced off against two years ago.

Simply put, the Patriot League isn’t as strong as the CAA. This game should be the equivalent of an SEC team playing a team from the American Athletic Conference or the MAC. And although upsets do happen, we aren’t too concerned with one happening here. W&M is historically very strong at home, particularly over the past few seasons.

Much like the previous week against Norfolk State, this game should be another good tune up for both W&M’s offense and defense before heading into CAA play.

Prediction: WIN (2-1)

2017 Goal: to make Zable look like THIS on Family Weekend this season. Deal? Deal.

Week 4 (September 23): BYE

UGH. ANOTHER BAD bye week for the Tribe this year… why does this keep happening? The good news is, the Tribe will have an extra week to prepare before opening up CAA play. The bad news is, if the Tribe gets into a situation where it makes the playoffs, it will have played 8 consecutive weeks before the postseason begins (assuming no BYE in the opening round). Yeah… that isn’t good.

W&M found itself in a similar situation two years ago when it played Duquesne in the opening round of the FCS playoffs. The Tribe hosted the Duquesne Dukes at home following 9 consecutive games/weeks without a break. The struggle was apparent, as W&M narrowly defeated the Dukes to advance to the second round. The team was visibly exhausted by the time it played Richmond the following week, and was thoroughly throttled.

We hate the position of the BYE week, but what can you do. Anybody know why we continue to have terrible bye weeks? We digress.


Week 5 (September 30): vs. Stony Brook (6:00 PM) 

Stony Brook is an interesting team. They seem to always boast a dominant defense with a sub-par offense. Last season, they got off to a great start, defeating two ranked teams. The first victim was North Dakota (not State) before the Seawolves went on to shock the FCS world with a big win over Richmond, who defeated UVA in the aforementioned season opener. The team started 5-2, and looked poised for the playoffs. The Seawolves would then go on to lose their final 4 games, including a game to W&M, sinking their hopes of a postseason berth.

Stony Brook joined the CAA in 2013. The Tribe has played them the previous three seasons, winning each game. For whatever reason, W&M has Stony Brook’s number. The biggest matchup to follow in this game will likely be the W&M offense against a stalwart Stony Brook defense.

If the offense clicks and performs well at home, it will bode very well for the rest of the season. If the unit struggles, W&M may have to rely on shutting down Stony Brook’s offense in this one.

We are picking the Tribe to win in a big contest; Williamsburg will be rocking for the first home league game of the year. Green and Gold, all the way.

Prediction: WIN (3-1)


Week 6 (October 7): at Elon (2:00 PM)

Elon……. Elon, Elon, Elon. Just saying it reminds us of last year’s miserable game. W&M’s shocking upset loss at home to Elon a year ago foreshadowed its subsequent subpar season from the get go (apologies for the excessive alliteration), and we here at the Blog haven’t quite gotten over it yet.

This season, W&M better show up ready to take on the Phoenix. The team should be angry that Elon came into OUR HOUSE a season ago and put on a beating in a game that was televised by CSN. I mean, we’re fired up just writing about it. So let’s return the favor this year.

W&M should be able to pull out a victory here, despite being on the road. The Phoenix finished at a meager 2-9 last season. After beating the Tribe, the Phoenix did not win a single game the rest of the year… ending on a 7-game losing streak. Wow. Talk about a terrible loss for the Tribe.

We pick the Tribe to win this one. If not, stay tuned for a W&M Sports Blog Twitter rant to follow.

Prediction: WIN (4-1)

The Tribe’s new Offensive Coordinator, D.J. Mangas, will look to make waves in his first season calling plays for your William & Mary Tribe.


Week 7 (October 14): at Delaware (3:30 PM)

According to our predictions up to this point, which we believe to be optimistic but totally realistic, W&M will come into this game sitting at a cozy 4-1.

I don’t know if you all know this by now, but the Blue Hens have a new coach in town. Someone by the name of Danny Rocco, or as some know him, “The Tribe Killer.” Okay, we made that up. But it’s true. The ex-Richmond coach left last season to sign with the Blue Hens, an historically “bigger” football program that has a much larger fan base — given that Delaware is a large state school and Richmond is a small private one.

Danny Rocco…. the man seems to always have the PERFECT game plan against W&M. It’s as if he knows what the Tribe is going to call before they even make the call. Even though it was a meaningless game last season, we are very happy the Tribe finally got over the Richmond curse and beat the Spiders, bringing the Capital Cup back to its rightful home. Okay, enough with the Richmond rant. Where were we? Oh, right. Something about a blue hen. Who came up with that mascot anyway?

Speaking of Delaware, we now dislike them almost as much as we dislike Danny Rocco. The Tribe’s (bad) Delaware loss is the reason W&M didn’t receive a much-needed bye for the 2015 playoffs. Unfortunately, Delaware is an up-and-coming team with a very young squad. And yes, they still have a running back named Thomas Jefferson (we kid you not), and bringing in Danny Rocco can only help their cause.

This contest will not be an easy one for the Green and Gold. And while we hope that the Tribe proves us wrong, we are predicting a loss for the Tribe on the road, breaking a potential 4-game win streak.

Prediction: LOSS (4-2)


Week 8 (October 21): vs. #1 JMU (3:30 PM) – HOMECOMING

The last time Zable Stadium sold out was back in 2013 when W&M played JMU on… you guessed it… Homecoming. W&M and JMU have exchanged victories each year since 2013, with both teams winning in their home stadiums and losing on the road. Guess what? This year, W&M will be playing at home. If the trend holds, that would mean W&M should pull out the victory, right? Science!

Well…. we don’t know about that. This JMU team did just win a National Championship, and did so by dethroning five-time repeat champs North Dakota State, in the Fargodome, before handily knocking out Youngstown State in the Championship. In fact, JMU didn’t lose a single FCS game last season, and come into the 2017 season having won 14-straight FCS games. Do you know the last FCS team to beat JMU in the regular season? Yes… William & Mary, back on Halloween day in 2015, a game that ended in a shootout victory for the good guys, 44-41.

William & Mary ALWAYS seems to play JMU tightly, no matter how good the Dukes are. Last season, W&M only lost by a touchdown on the road against the eventual National Champs. That is pretty impressive for a Tribe team that finished just 5-6. While we don’t expect this game to be a blowout, we predict it’ll finish closer than most think. But picking W&M in this game over the National Champs would be a foolish thing to do. It’s time to come back to Earth.

Prediction: LOSS (4-3)


Week 9 (October 28): at Maine (12:00 PM)

Maine had a surprisingly good offense last season, led by senior QB Dan Collins, who finished as the second leading passer in the CAA. Certainly impressive considering the CAA contains great signal-callers such as Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta and JMU’s Bryan Schor. The Blackbears beat the Tribe 35-28 in Zable last year.

But in the end, Maine finished in similar fashion to W&M last season, ending the year at 6-5 (5-3 CAA). The Black Bears had the 6th-ranked offense and the 10th-ranked defense in the CAA. To put that in perspective, W&M finished with the 7th-ranked offense and 7th-ranked defense, respectively. Very similar teams.

This season, however, Maine is without their stud QB Dan Collins. Without him, we don’t expect the team to be as good as they were last year (we’re sure they’re saying the same thing about us this year). The Tribe may suffer from some jet lag in this one, but it will be ready to play. Look for the Tribe to get back on track and roll in Maine this year.

Prediction: WIN (5-3)


Week 10 (November 4): vs. #13 New Hampshire (2:00 PM)

This season’s contest vs. New Hampshire will mark a 3-game stretch where the Tribe will have to play two teams that were ranked in the preseason top-25. A year ago, the Wildcats made some noise by defeating W&M in New Hampshire 21-12. The game was sloppy all around, with the Tribe’s special teams putting in a horrendous performance. In fact, UNH led the game by a 7-6 score going into the fourth quarter. Not a great showing from both teams.

The Wildcats took the reigns and finished the contest with two more touchdowns in the fourth, as the Tribe could only muster a meager 6 points. Going into the 2017 season, New Hampshire is ranked #13 in all the land. Their dual-threat QB Trevor Knight, returns this year as a junior. However, we think their preseason ranking is a little high. Despite finishing #3 in the CAA in Total Offense last year, they finished just #9 in Total Defense. If their offense can keep them in games, which we think it certainly could, then the sky is the limit this year for the Wildcats. If W&M can keep pace on the offensive side of the ball, it will have a shot. For now, we’ll predict last season’s #3 offense defeats the Tribe this season.

Prediction: LOSS (5-4)

 


Week 11 (November 11): vs. Towson (2:00 PM)

The Towson Tigers finished last season with a 4-7 (3-5 CAA) record. They really couldn’t produce on either side of the ball, and it showed. This season, W&M matches up with them late in the year, the second-to-last game of the season in fact, within the friendly confines of Zable Stadium. We like our odds in this one — and there really isn’t much to be said. Tribe gets the W here.

Prediction: WIN (6-4)

Week 12 (November 18): at #7 Richmond (3:00 PM)

Ah, Richmond. Every single year for the last game of the season — the Capital Cup. How sweet it was last year to avenge several years of recent losses to the Spiders with a home victory to end the season. And yes, while the victory didn’t mean anything for the Tribe’s playoff hopes, it meant a lot heading into the offseason this past year. It showed the players that it can be done.

This will be the first season that Richmond is without its long-time Head Coach Danny Rocco, who as we mentioned, recently made his way to Delaware. But even with a new HC at the helm, the Spiders are locked and loaded with one of the most explosive offenses in the CAA. They are headlined by quarterback (now a Senior, thank God) Kyle Lauletta. Lauletta led the entire CAA in passing yards per game last season, averaging 274 passing yards a contest. He will be joined in the backfield by a strong redshirt sophomore running back in Deontez Thompson, who in last year’s loss to the Tribe gashed the Green and Gold with 19 carries for 144 yards and 1 touchdown (7.6 yards per carry). We’re sure he bulked up in the offseason, and will look to improve upon his #5 finish in rushing yards last season (1,001 yards).

Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta continues to make headlines this offseason, as one of the FCS’ top signal callers. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
It’s important to note that in last year’s W&M win over Richmond, Lauletta injured himself — paving the way for a Tribe victory, and crushing Richmond’s hopes of making a run in the playoffs. If and when Lauletta is up and running this season, it’ll be a completely different Richmond team that we don’t want to cross. They’ll be incredibly tough to beat.

Prediction: LOSS (6-5)

POLL

Conclusion

As you can see, the Tribe plays 11 games this season, and if our predictions hold true, we have the team finishing with a winning record. Again, there are some question marks that must be hashed out prior to the Season Opener. There will certainly be ups and downs at the QB position as growing pains are inevitable. And of course, the Tribe could certainly finish with a better record. But in the same vein, and as we all know, things could go downhill as well. However, we trust Jimmye and Mangas to make the right decision over the next couple weeks, and will throw our full support behind the chosen man under center.

Do you have your tickets yet for the Season Opener? LET’S GO TRIBE!!!

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