New Hampshire was a consensus top-10 team that was picked to finish second in the Colonial. The Wildcats were just blown out by picked-to-finish-eighth Maine in Week 1.
Delaware was a consensus top-15 team that was picked to finish third in the CAA. The Blue Hens lost their first game at home to picked-to-finish-dead-last Rhode Island.
The sixth-place team upset an FBS squad.
The tenth and eleventh-place teams are the only other schools that won a game last week.
What the hell is going on in the CAA?
[divider]BENNETTRANK WEIGHS IN: NDSU is No. 1; James Madison is No. 5[divider]
Before last Thursday, I looked at the Colonial in neat, mathematically friendly portions. There was the top quarter, with three ranked teams and big, legitimate national title aspirations; there was the second quarter, with 3-4 teams who could battle for playoff bids; there was the third quarter, the talented troublemakers who were good enough to upset just about anybody; there was the fourth quarter, with teams that all had some sort of fatal flaw that would keep them toward the bottom of a really good league.
Flip all those nice, clean proportions on their head. Both New Hampshire and Delaware lost conference games in Week 1 — in Delaware's case, the Hens lost as double-digit favorites — and now everyone is questioning everything about the top of the CAA.
Elsewhere, Stony Brook's defense still looked formidable in an FBS match with Air Force, but off-season offensive concerns may have been well-founded. Albany, Elon and Richmond performed as expected in their FBS games, suffering big losses. Even James Madison is 0-1 for the first time since 2014, though it's hard to take anything but positives away from the Dukes' down-to-the-wire loss at NC State.
Villanova is the real winner here, as the Wildcats reminded everyone that, when healthy, they're good enough on both sides of the ball to challenge for conference supremacy. A 19-17 win over cross-town FBS rival Temple showed off the resiliency and talent that second-year coach Mark Ferrante has maintained.
"I think it gives our guys the confidence and excitement to move forward," Ferrante said on the CAA conference call Monday morning. "Our seniors and leaders that missed a good part of last year, I think they came into this season just a little hungrier to get back on the field because part of their season was taken away from them last year."
Ferrante and Co. will need to concentrate on a tough defensive assignment at Lehigh this weekend, but Villanova has inserted itself firmly into the national picture with a big Week 1 showing. Looking forward, the Oct. 13 Cats vs. Dogs rivalry game with JMU could evolve into a major outcome in the race for the 2018 CAA championship.
Up in the northeast, it's not an overreaction to already be worried about New Hampshire. Trevor Knight has his throwing arm in a sling after an AC Joint injury. The offensive line gave up six sacks to Maine last Thursday, and the defense gave up 450 yards and 35 points.
"[Maine] played about every facet of the game better than us," coach Sean McDonnell said on Monday morning. "There's a lot of things we have to get better on, in a hurry."
At least for now, the Black Bears take over as the CAA's most intriguing New England football team. (They also take over possession of the Brice-Cowell Musket, which UNH has had since 2010.) Maine has a funky September schedule, with a 10-day rest before playing Western Kentucky, then a bye, then another FBS game with Central Michigan. The Black Bears will also play Yale on Sept. 29. When they finally do return to conference play, it'll be another big home game with Villanova.
While we're in New England, we can't forget about Rhode Island — the Rams can take sole possession of first place in the CAA this Saturday with a home win over Albany. I've been high on the Rams all summer, but even I couldn't have predicted an early run at first place.
Fans of the team that URI beat — the Fightin' Blue Hens of Delaware — may not have expected their squad to be 0-1. Despite the loss, there were some real positives to look forward to if you're Delaware. The Blue Hens made mistake after mistake all Thursday evening, yet they still had a chance to win it at the end.
Quarterback Pat Kehoe looked good in his first start, too, throwing for 202 yards and two touchdowns. UD had three turnovers in the game — including a high snap on special teams that was recovered in the end zone by Rhode Island — but none of them traced back to Kehoe.
Second-year head coach Danny Rocco was rightfully bullish on Kehoe's play.
"Too many drops by our receivers and tight ends," Coach Rocco said Monday morning. "We recorded five drops. That's how Coach Campbell offered it to me on Friday. If we caught three or four of those, [Kehoe] is not 12-for-22. He's 15 or 16-for-22. There was another touchdown drop right there in that mix. So he could have come out of there with a really productive day."
Delaware's problems appear to be fixable, but a home loss right out of the gate is a tough hurdle in a conference as good as the CAA. Newark's margin for error just got a little smaller.
Week 1 is never a time for overreaction. That's especially true when the top line of the conference hasn't changed. Even after massive roster turnover, JMU is going to be really tough to beat.
Even still, CAA fans may have some re-evaluating to do after this past week of action. More data points are definitely a requirement before any big generalizations can be made, but we could be in the midst of a real hegemonic shakeup in one of the premiere FCS conferences.