Ladies and gentlemen, we’re LESS THAN ONE WEEK away from the start of Tribe football. After an unorthodox, COVID-induced Spring football season riddled with game postponements and cancellations, W&M returns to action this Saturday, September 4th, at UVA.
Going into head coach Mike London‘s third season, the Tribe is looking to turn the corner and make some serious noise in the CAA. Without further ado, here are our game by game predictions for the 2021 season.
W&M’s Final Spring Season Record: 1-2 (1-2 CAA)
Picked to Finish This Year (2021-2022): #11 out of 12 in the CAA
W&M’s 2021 Preseason All-League Candidates to Watch:
- PR Bronson Yoder
- OL Andrew Trainer
- DL Will Kiely
William & Mary was picked to finish second-to-last in the CAA this season; to say the least, the team should be feeling a certain level of disrespect from both CAA coaches and the media alike (those that annually come up with these typically hilarious preseason rankings). At the end of the day, preseason rankings mean absolutely nothing. Remember when basketball coach Dane Fischer came into his first season? The preseason poll placed W&M toward the bottom of the pack. That same year, Coach Fisch won CAA Coach of the year and W&M finished 2nd in the CAA. Case in point.
There’s absolutely no reason why this year’s W&M football team can’t aspire to those same goals. While this year’s roster certainly flying under the radar, we strongly believe that when all cylinders are clicking, this year’s William & Mary football is capable of upsetting any foe it will face off against (with the potential exception of now-perennial powerhouse James Madison).
Any way you slice it, we at the WMSB think the Tribe will look back these preseason rankings, and, well, laugh about them.
W&M Sports Blog 2021 Season Predictions
Week 1 (September 4): at UVA (7:30 PM)
William & Mary opens the season in Charlottesville against the Cavaliers for the third time in the past four years (not including this past Spring season); over the last two games, the Tribe has lost by an average of almost 4 touchdowns (by about 26.5 points). While UVA is certainly not one of the top FBS schools this season, they’re of course still in the FBS (a more nuanced way of saying that UVA devotes far more resources, facilities, staff, and scholarships into all their sports programs relative to W&M) — as such, the Cavs will be a formidable opponent for W&M this Saturday.
UVA is coming off a 5-5 season just a year ago, but W&M has not beaten an FBS opponent since 2009. Whom did they beat in 2009, you ask? You know of course, W&M defeated UVA 26-14 on the back of 3 interceptions and a pick six by a young B.W. Webb. And with W&M’s dynamic starting QB Hollis Mathis not likely to start (shoulder), the Cavaliers shouldn’t have too much issue in this one (but fingers crossed).
Prediction: LOSS (0-1)
Week 2 (September 11): vs. Lafayette (6:00 PM)
In week 2, W&M opens up its home slate beginning with the Lafayette Leopards. Lafayette was picked to finish third in the Patriot League this season, behind Holy Cross and Fordham, and boasts 6 players returning that were picked to the Patriot League’s Preseason All-Conference team.
The last time W&M played Lafayette was in 2019, when the Green and Gold came out with a 30-17 victory over the Cougars; we expect a similar result in this one, with the Tribe winning by 2+ touchdowns. While the Patriot is a “lesser” athletic conference than W&M’s CAA, Lafayette will surely act as an early-season measuring stick for this year’s Tribe team.
Prediction: WIN (1-1)
Week 3 (September 18): at Colgate (1:00 PM)
In week 3, the Tribe heads on the road to face its second Patriot league opponent in as many weeks: the Colgate Raiders. Interestingly, the Tribe’s early-season slew of opponents is the same bunch that W&M started its season against back in 2019 (again, against UVA, Lafayette, and Colgate in that order). But this season, while Lafayette was picked to finish third in the Patriot, Colgate was picked to finish dead last. Now, as we mentioned before, preseason rankings are always deceiving when talking about FCS & mid-major college sports (see: W&M being picked #11 out of 12 in the CAA) — but even with that being said, to be picked last in the academically-minded Patriot League is pretty bad. In short, we predict W&M to pick up the win here, beginning the season 2-1 and and riding a two-game winning streak.
Prediction: WIN (2-1)
Week 4 (September 25): at Elon (2:00 PM)
In week 4, William & Mary heads to the great state of North Carolina to kick off the CAA slate, with Elon first up. Who was the only team in the CAA preseason rankings picked to finish below William & Mary, you ask? Why, that would be the Elon Phoenix, of course. The Tribe dominated the Phoenix this past Spring season, coming away with a 31-10 victory at home. In that game, true freshman running back Malachi Imoh ran wild, cruising for 137 yards on just 10 carries. But it didn’t stop there, Imoh also cashed in on three touchdowns, including a 65-yarder to open scoring in the first quarter. W&M QB Hollis Mathis was also dominant, throwing for 175 yards and 1 TD, while also rushing for 89 yards on the ground. It is worth noting that Elon’s senior QB Davis Cheek did not play in that game, as he will return for the Phoenix this year. While we expect a closer game with Cheek in for the Phoenix, we still will give the upper hand to our Tribe in this one.
Prediction: WIN (3-1)
BYE WEEK (October 2)
Not a huge fan of where W&M’s BYE week falls this year; it’s very early. We’d prefer it later in the CAA season, when the team is more likely to need a rest. But it is what it is, we can’t control the schedule. Ebirt Og.
Week 6 (October 9): vs. Albany (3:30 PM): HOMECOMING
Coming off our predicted 3-game winning streak and a BYE, the Tribe will find itself well-rested for its Homecoming tilt against the visiting University of Albany. Albany is an interesting team this season. In fact, the last time the Tribe played the Great Danes (in 2019), it was a back-and-forth shootout that saw W&M hold an 11-point lead in the third quarter before giving up 24 straight points and falling 39-31.
This year, the Danes are led by senior running back Karl Mofor, (who was selected to the CAA’s Preseason All-Conference Team). Mofor is joined by Albany’s superstar QB Jeff Undercuffler (who also picked as an honorable mention All-Conference selection). As just a freshman in 2019, Undercuffler set Great Dane records for single-season completions (262), passing attempts (464), passing yards (3,543), and passing touchdowns (41). His 41 passing touchdowns led the entire FCS and — get this — his 3,543 passing yards led all of the vaunted CAA. Safe to say, Undercuffler can play, and he will continue terrorizing CAA defenses for the foreseeable future. In the 2019 game, he put up 310 yards and 3 passing TDs against W&M; also in that game, Mofor rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.
This contest will be the first big CAA test for William & Mary. It should be, again, one where we again learn a lot about the team and how it will compete against the big powers in this year’s CAA. In front of what will be a raucous Homecoming crowd, we at the WMSB expect the Tribe to get energized by the W&M faithful. Unfortunately though, we think Undercuffler and Mofor might be too much for the Tribe defense to handle, giving the advantage to the Great Danes in what we expect to be a close contest.
Prediction: Loss (3-2)
Week 7 (October 16): at Maine (12 PM)
After Homecoming, W&M will head back on the road to face the Maine Black Bears. Picked to finish #9 (of 12) in the CAA, Maine hasn’t been mentioned by many to make much noise in the CAA this year. The last time W&M and Maine faced off was back in 2019, also at Maine. After jumping out to an early lead, Maine went on a 24-point run that proved too much for the Tribe. It was probably Hollis’ worst game of his young career (4/22 passing, 68 yards), but he did do some damage on the ground (78 rushing yards).
This year’s contest is likely to be a toss up, but we’ll give the edge to the Tribe in this one. First, Hollis is now two years older and wiser; when talking about college QBs, two years does wonders in terms of progression. Second, we don’t see the Tribe defense giving up 24 unanswered points again. For those two reasons, give us the Green and Gold.
Prediction: Win (4-2)
Week 8 (October 23): vs. Towson (3:30 PM)
Towson was one of the CAA teams that chose not to play in the Spring 2020 season due to COVID concerns. Coming into this year, the Tigers were picked to finish around the middle of the pack in the CAA. A key loss for them this offseason came in the form of QB Tom Flacco, Joe Flacco‘s brother (yes, that Joe Flacco), who really shined in the Tigers offense in recent years. Towson also graduated their top two running backs from 2019; these guys ran for over 200 yards against W&M last time out — so this is certainly good news for the Tribe. The Tigers also lost their top receiver this past year in Shane Leatherbury. Losing Flacco is a massive loss, and without a Spring season to evaluate Towson, it’s that much harder to predict just how the Tigers will continue on this year given their recent losses. As such, we;ll take the Tribe again in this one.
Prediction: Win (5-2)
Week 9 (October 30): at Villanova (1:00 PM)
Now at an impressive 5-2 on the season (per our predictions), the Tribe heads on the road to face the preseason #16-ranked team in the country: The Villanova Wildcats. While Villanova’s againg football stadium leaves fans wanting for more, the Wildcats will trot out quite the impressive football team this season. Villanova is deep on the offensive side of the ball, returning quarterback Daniel Smith , running back Justin Covington, and their top two receivers in Jaaron Hayek and Rayjoun Pringle. They also have superstars and first-team all-CAA players on the defensive side of the ball with the likes of DT Malik Fisher, LB Forrest Rhyne, and CB Christian Benford. It’s safe to say, this team is going to be very good. We at the WMSB plan to be at this game cheering on the Tribe, but we’re tempering our expectations in this one — at least for now.
Prediction: Loss (5-3)
Week 10 (November 6): at Delaware
Brutal. After a tough game against Villanova on the road, the Tribe travels to play at Delaware. Remember when we said Villanova was good? Well, Delaware is coming off an undefeated Spring Season that saw them finish 5-0 and secure a #1 seed in the FCS Playoffs. The Blue Hens went on to the FCS semi-finals last year before falling to South Dakota State.
This year, Delaware is ranked as the preseason #5 team in the country — and for good reason. They boast the most players honored on the CAA’s preseason All-Conference team (with 8, even more than JMU). The Hens are led on offense by three first team All-CAA selections in QB Nolan Henderson, RB Dejoun Lee, and WR Thyrick Pitts. Delaware also had one of the nation’s top defenses this past Spring Season, only giving up 11.6 PPG in five regular season contests. Truly insane. On that side of the ball, they return three first team all-CAA selections in S Kedrick Whitehead, CB Nijuel Hill, and LB Johnny Buchanan, Ladies and gentlemen, you’re looking at one of the most — if not the most — complete team in the CAA this season. It won’t be easy for the Tribe.
Prediction: Loss (5-4)
Week 11: (November 13): vs. JMU
CAA schedulers committed absolutely zero favors to William & Mary in this three-game stretch. First, W&M travels on the road to play #16 Villanova — then #5 Delaware (on the road again, mind you), before the team finally returns home to face the preseason #2 team in the country: the James Madison Dukes. Thanks, CAA. As we all know by now, JMU has become the premier class of CAA football, consistently competing not just for CAA Championships, but for National Championships each year. Kudos to what the Dukes have done, and man, do they have some sweet uniforms.
Anyways, it is pretty safe to say the Dukes are yet again loaded. They return their starting QB Cole Johnson, All Americans RB Percy Agyei-Obese and DE Mike Greene, along with their top two receivers, and all-CAA safety MJ Hampton. To add insult to injury, they also have one of the nation’s top kickers in Ethan Ratke, who already owns the conference record for made field goals and is just three field goals away from the FCS all-time record, a testament to how good he and JMU have been in recent seasons. Overall, it’s safe to say the Dukes will pick up right where they left off this past Spring Season, where they finished with an undefeated regular season, before falling in the FCS semi-finals in an absolute nail bitter against eventual National Campion Sam Houston State. JMU was one of the few teams W&M played in the shortened Spring Season, and boy, it was not pretty for W&M…. a lopsided 38-10 loss saw JMU put up 460 total yards of total offense to W&M’s meager 187. While we expect it to be closer this time around, we wouldn’t be expecting a win here.
Prediction: Loss (5-5)
Week 12: (November 20): vs. Richmond
Finally! After William & Mary plays three nationally-ranked teams in consecutive weeks, they get a “break” here…right? Wrong. To end the season, the Richmond Spiders come to town — William & Mary’s arch-rival to the north. Richmond finished this past Spring Season 3-1, with their only loss coming to JMU; in fact, the Spiders were ranked #14 in the country to end the season. They start the 2021 campaign as the preseason #4 team in the CAA, even receiving votes in the Stats FCS Top-25 poll.
The Spiders return their starting QB and RB from a year ago, as well as All-CAA tight end John Fitzgerald. On defense, they also run deep with All-American DT Kobie Turner and first team All-CAA LBs Tyler Dressler and Tristan Wheeler. However, there is certainly hope for the Tribe. William & Mary played Richmond in the Spring Season, falling just 21-14 in a closely contested contest that truly could have gone either way.
Richmond maintained a 13-0 lead before William & Mary scored 14 unanswered points, even holding the lead in the fourth quarter. However, the Spiders would go on to score the final TD with none other than John Fitzgerald, the Spiders’ aforementioned superstar tight end, giving them the 21-14 victory in the Capital Cup. This game could truly go either way this year though, as is typically the case in the historic Capital Cup series. At Zable Stadium, in front of what will hopefully be another raucous home crowd, give us William & Mary to take BACK the Capital Cup and finish the season on a high note.
Prediction: Win (6-5)
Conclusion: While a 6-5 record likely won’t get William & Mary into the FCS playoffs, that doesn’t mean the Tribe couldn’t still have an outside shot at postseason play. If the Green and Gold can pull off the win during Homecoming against Albany early in the season, W&M could start CAA play 4-0, and in our scenarios, would finish the season 7-4. With a 7-4 record, including a win in the Capital Cup against a potentially ranked Richmond team, a case could certainly be made for William & Mary in the FCS Playoffs.
At that point, the Tribe’s only losses would have come on the road against Villanova, Delaware, and JMU (plus UVA), all three CAA teams are likely to finish the season in the top-15, if not the top-10 in the country, this season. This is all to say, it’s not outside the realm of reason to expect big things out of the W&M this this year.
LET’S GO TRIBE!