Army is so close to cracking into the AP poll. Even after a sometimes lackadaisical performance against FCS opponent and fellow Patriot League foe Lafayette last week, the Black Knights continued their climb and now sit just one spot from the rankings at 26.
I still hold to the opinion that they could possibly beat FCS competition and fall in the voting, but last week proved that to not be the case. This week, I think it’s a win and they are in, because this FCS opponent is not exactly the same as the one they faced last Saturday in New York.
The Colgate Raiders come to Michie Stadium on Saturday for a game at high noon and they will be bringing a 9-0 record and the #6 ranking in the FCS poll with them to town. I know, I know, it’s still an FBS vs. FCS game, and we are talking about a top 25 program this season in Army, so there is no real reason to fear the ‘Gate on Saturday, right? After all, the teams they have beaten are a combined 27-61 on the season. That’s a pretty weak SOS against mostly inferior FCS competition.
I’m here to tell you, though, it’s not just that Colgate is undefeated. It’s also not just that they haven’t faced a program with a winning record all season. It’s just how dominant they have been against that inferior competition that should at least give Army fans either a tad bit of concern or perhaps a twinge of excitement that this might just turn out to be closer than the experts think.
Our own contributor Austin Lanteigne has even called for Colgate to cover the +11 they are being given on the road.
So, what exactly would give him the confidence to pick the FCS team to keep the game within single digits? Let’s take a dive at some of the stats and playmakers for the Raiders and see exactly what they are bringing with them for the in-state matchup in West Point on Saturday.
I don’t normally do a stat dive and just jump right into offense, defense, and special teams, but I’m going to make an exception as I’m guessing most of you don’t regularly follow the FCS ranks as much and well, quite frankly, some of these stats are just incredible.
Colgate is now sixth in the FCS poll and one of only three undefeated teams left in the FCS with North Dakota State and Princeton.
Colgate has outscored opponents 287-29 on the season. Yep, the team has given up 29 points the entire year. In nine games. That’s only 3.2 a game for those keeping track. Oh, and they haven’t given up a single point all season in the first quarter.
What’s even crazier than that? They gave up 17 of those points the first week of the season against Holy Cross. So, in the 8 games since week one, they have given up a TOTAL of TWELVE POINTS. That, my friends, is an average of 1.5 points per game. They are nearly averaging a shutout over the last 8 games.
Speaking of shutouts, the Raiders have pitched FIVE of them on the season, which ties an all-time FCS record in a year. If they could have just avoided giving up a darn field goal to Bucknell (I know, how dare they!) they could have had a consecutive game streak of six shutouts. Alas, they had to settle for just a three game shutout streak.
They clearly were looking ahead to Army this week, because they gave up a touchdown last week to Lehigh in a 48-6 victory on the road. That was the first touchdown they gave up in, wait for it, 70 DAYS and 29 QUARTERS of play. They had not allowed someone in the endzone since September 1st until last week.
Now that I’ve got you interested, let’s break down some specific offense and defensive stats and look at the playmakers that keep this ridiculous machine churning.
This is an offense that predicates itself on doing a lot of what Army likes to do: chew up the clock.
Colgate is averaging almost 35 minutes time of possession on the season, which is good for 2nd best in FCS.
Grant Breneman is the starting QB and has had a solid season. He’s passed for 1347 yards and five touchdowns to just three interceptions, serving often as more of a game manager as the offense really “runs” through senior running back James Holland. Breneman does however have six rushing TDs on the year, second behind Holland on the team. Colgate has been so dominant that with Breneman dinged up last week, coach Dan Hunt just decided to start the backup QB in a last minute decision and they still won by 42 points.
Sage Attwood threw for 146 yards and a TD and rushed for two more scores. Clearly, the Raiders are confident in either signal caller to lead the offense.
Back to James Holland though. Over his last four games, the senior is rushing for nearly 130 yards per game and almost two TDs a game with seven total in that span. He scores nearly 9 points a game on the season and rushes for almost an even 100. He’s got 899 yards on the year with 11 touchdowns and is the team’s second leading receiver with 22 catches.
This is a team that relies heavily on its run game, looks to control the clock, and just sits back and allows their smothering defense to dominate each and every week.
Obviously, it’s been the defense that has gotten the majority of the love as they have finished off five shutouts and given up 29 points on the whole season. They have only allowed three touchdowns all year, two of which were on 4th down plays in the first game. They have scored as many touchdowns on defense as they have allowed this season.
It’s probably not hard to fathom at this point but Colgate leads the FCS in almost every defensive statistical category. They are first in rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, total defense, scoring defense, and red zone defense.
Speaking of red zone defense, one of the crazier stats is that they have only allowed ONE TD in the red zone the entire year. Opponents are 1-12 on the season getting it across the goal line. That’s insane!
Wanna hear an even crazier stat? Against Fordham, the Raiders defense held the Rams to negative 50 yards rushing to set a program record. In the game, the other team had -50 yards on the ground. Yikes!
TJ Holl at inside linebacker is the man making the defense click. He has 76 tackles on the season to go with 12 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Along the defensive line, it’s Nick Wheeler leading the way. He has 8 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 42 tackles this year.
In the defensive backfield, Tyler Castillo is the star with four interceptions on the season.
Needless to say, this is a unit that is getting it done in all phases, and that might be the understatement of the year.
With all of that being said, Army is the most efficient team on third and fourth down in FBS, and they have an outstanding team from top to bottom in all phases of the game. What Colgate has done has been impressive, and if they play like they did against Lafayette they could be in trouble, but I still expect the Black Knights to pull this one out, winning by two scores and making the jump into the top 25 next week.
Check back on AAE for our game preview as we look at exactly what it will take for Army to come away with the victory!