Ladies and gentlemen, this is it — Jimmye Laycock’s final season in Williamsburg. It’s hard to believe, and it’s been a long time coming, but the time is finally here. This year’s senior class will look to send him out on a high note, building off of last year’s miserable finish, which saw the Tribe go 2-9 (0-8 CAA). It can only go up from here, and we mean that quite literally.
Following a season like that, there are certainly question marks, most notably at the quarterback position. At this time last year, the starting QB was still unannounced; it wasn’t until the first game of the year, against UVA, that we learned who would start. And even in that first game, the position was a revolving door. As of right now, we still don’t have a starter announced, but it looks to be a two-man race between Shon Mitchell and Ted Hefter.
It’s time to turn the page this year, and get everything back on track. The Green and Gold’s football program is a storied one, which dates all the way back to 1893. The program will return to glory, mark our words. The work starts now.
W&M Sports Blog 2018 Season Predictions
Week 1 (September 1): at Bucknell (6:00 PM)
Last season, a 2-9 William & Mary team clobbered Bucknell 30-9. Then-freshman running back Nate Evans went off for 89 rushing yards and a touchdown, while now-captain linebacker Nate Atkins forced a fumble on a strip sack in the third quarter, which safety Corey Parker recovered for a 19-yard touchdown. W&M put up 20 points in the third quarter alone, putting away an outmatched Bucknell team.
If the Green and Gold could pull off a convincing victory like that last season, then there’s no reason to think that this year’s improved squad can’t do it again in 2018. W&M pulls off the opening day victory on the road by a couple of scores.
Prediction: WIN (1-0)
Week 2 (September 8): at #20 (FBS) Virginia Tech (2:00 PM)
Yes, Virginia Tech seems to be over-ranked every year, always beginning the season toward the bottom of the top-25, only to rise up toward the top-10 before losing to a top-10 team (or two). We’re not sure if this tells us more about the lack of top-flight FBS teams, or if Tech can just never get it done when it counts.
Wait, you tell me you like Tech, and disagree? Okay, then tell me when Tech last beat a top-5 ranked team — go on, I’ll wait. But I digress. Our good friends in southwest Virginia currently boast the #20 FBS ranking; time will tell if they’re worthy of that ranking, but as for the game, we don’t see this being close.
The last time W&M played at Tech in 2014, the final score was 34-9. We expect slightly more offensive production in this one, but just slightly (and from both teams).
Prediction: LOSS (1-1)
Week 3 (September 15): vs. #10 Elon (6:00 PM)
This is not your father’s Elon team. Elon’s upstart athletics program joined the CAA in 2014, and has seemingly gotten better every year. In 2014, they were quite simply the worst team in the CAA. In 2015, they improved. In 2016, they came into W&M’s newly renovated Zable Stadium and beat the Tribe in a shocking upset. Last season, W&M would again lose to the Phoenix.
Going into this season, Elon is ranked #10 in all of the FCS, an all-time program high. The Phoenix are hungry, and will look to qualify for the FCS Playoffs this season. Unless W&M is able to quickly turn around its woes from a season ago, the Phoenix come into this contest as the heavy favorites, even for a game played in the ‘Burg.
Prediction: LOSS (1-2)
Week 4 (September 22): at #2 James Madison (3:30 PM)
This is also not your father’s JMU. Relatively speaking, JMU boasts a “newer” football program, which was established in 1972 (to W&M’s 1893). The William & Mary vs. JMU series began in 1978, with W&M winning 10 of the first 15 through 1993. The last 25 years have been different, to say the least.
Since 2004, JMU has completely flipped the script, winning 11 out of the last 15 contests against the Tribe. Moreover, JMU won the FCS National Championship in both 2004 and 2016, finishing as the runner-up in last year’s National Championship game against North Dakota State. The Dukes come into the season as strong as ever, checking in as the preseason #2 team in the nation.
With that being said, W&M seems to keep these games close, even in down seasons (minus last year). Just a few seasons ago, the Tribe walked away with a 44-41 shootout victory. Despite that, the Dukes remain the heavy favorites.
Prediction: LOSS (1-3)
Week 5 (September 29): vs. Colgate (6:00 PM) — Family Weekend
On Family Weekend, the Colgate Raiders come to Williamsburg to pay the Tribe a visit. Surprisingly enough, this game will tell us a lot about this year’s William & Mary squad. Colgate comes into the year as the heavy favorites to win the Patriot League, garnering 71 of 74 possible first-place votes in their league.
Now, while the Patriot League is an academic conference first, W&M should not take Colgate lightly, not by any means. If the Tribe has something going in its favor for this contest, it’s that the Green and Gold has not lost to a Patriot League team since 2012 (to Lafayette, when the Tribe finished the year 2-9). Every year, minus one (where the Tribe didn’t play a Patriot League team), W&M has beaten either Lafayette or Bucknell — two members of the Patriot.
Suffice to say, Colgate is not Bucknell, nor is it Lehigh — especially this season. If W&M drops this game (and the two before), Jimmye and the boys could be in for another long year. But in a tight, hard-fought contest in front of a packed Zable Stadium, we’re giving our boys the upper hand.
Prediction: WIN (2-3)
Week 6 (October 6): vs. Albany (3:30 PM)
Albany comes into the season picked 9 (out of 12) in the CAA, to W&M’s 11 out of 12. While preseason polls don’t mean much, they do shed light on the perceptions of teams relative to one another going into the year. That is to say, Albany is not perceived to be that much better than the Tribe at this point in the offseason.
Albany, much like Elon, recently joined the CAA (for football only) — beginning in 2013. Since then, and to our knowledge, W&M has never actually faced off against the Great Danes. Of the eight CAA teams that W&M plays against this season, Albany represents one of four truly beatable teams that W&M has to perform against.
If the Green and Gold can get in the win column against the Great Danes in Zable Stadium, we expect the Jimmye and the boys to rally over the next few games. It’s certainly possible, and we expect it to happen.
Prediction: WIN (3-3)
Week 7 (October 13): at Towson (4:00 PM)
Following an important game against Albany, the Tribe will go up the block to visit Towson in the great state of Maryland. Last season’s Towson Tigers finished toward the bottom half of the league, sporting a below average 3-5 CAA record. The team’s CAA wins came against last season’s bottom-dwellers, Rhode Island and W&M, as well as a surprising win over an improved Delaware team.
This year’s Tigers squad is picked to finish #10 in the CAA, just one spot above the Tribe. If W&M can go on the road and steal a victory, and assuming the Tribe won the week before, the Green and Gold could be on the verge of a three-game win-streak going into the next week’s contest against Maine for homecoming. #WeBelieve
Prediction: WIN (4-3)
Week 8 (October 20): vs. Maine (3:30 PM) – Homecoming
We at the W&M Sports Blog strongly believe that W&M can win three out of the four games during this stretch, which includes contests against: Albany, Towson, Maine, and Rhode Island. The most likely scenario is that W&M splits the difference, finishing 2-2 (with the absolute worst case being just 1 win). If W&M is able to win against Albany and Towson, then this might just be the “back to Earth” game for the Tribe.
Since 2010, W&M is 4-4 in Homecoming games. That’s about as even as it gets, and this contest is no different. In what should be a closely contested game, two evenly matched teams will go at each other. Maine ranked in the top-5 in both passing and rushing last season. Time will tell how much of that carries over into this season, but W&M’s defense will likely be asked to step up to the plate in this one.
Prediction: LOSS (4-4)
Week 9 (October 27): at Rhode Island (12:00 PM)
Ah, Rhode Island. It’s always great to see them on the schedule. Unfortunately for the Rams, they’ve been the laughing-stock of the league for quite some time now. Since 2010, Rhody has only reached 5 wins once. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change this season, as the Rams were picked to finish dead last in preseason CAA polls.
The Tribe is lucky to get them on the schedule this season, in what should assuredly be a victory for W&M. We wouldn’t be surprised if a desperate Rams team keeps this closer than it should, but we fully expect a victory for the Green and Gold in this one.
Prediction: WIN (5-4)
Week 10 (November 3): BYE WEEK
Week 11 (November 10): at #11 Villanova (1:00 PM)
And this is where it gets tough again. After starting off the year against great teams, then playing some mediocre ones in between, the Tribe will really have to really fight during the last two games of the season. The Wildcats come into the year ranked just outside the top-10 in all of the FCS, at #11.
This is a team that always seems to be in contention in the CAA, and this year is no different. The Tribe gets a tough draw, having to go on the road here; but since 2010, the Tribe actually holds a 3-2 series lead over the Wildcats. ‘Nova will look to even the series, likely led by a strong rush defense that finished #1 in the CAA last season.
Prediction: LOSS (5-5)
Week 12 (November 17): vs. Richmond (2:00 PM)
It all comes down to this. If our predictions hold true, this game will have plenty of hype around it. It will be Jimmye Laycock’s last-ever game at the helm for the Tribe, in front of his beloved fans in Zable Stadium, playing against his team’s arch-rival, the Richmond Spiders. Have you bought your tickets yet? In what will certainly be an emotional contest, the Tribe will give Richmond everything it has to come out with a victory.
This season, we expect Richmond to regress. Former Richmond stud QB Kyle Lauletta was thankfully drafted away to the New York Giants this offseason, so 2nd-year Richmond Head Coach (and former 13-year W&M Assistant Coach) Russ Huesman will have his hands full on offense this season.
In this one, we expect our boys (and fans) to come out strong for the gipper. Ultimately, the Tribe will potentially have an opportunity to improve upon last year’s miserable season to finish this year with a winning record.
Prediction: WIN (6-5)