HERO Sports wraps up the previews with "Two-A-Days" for each FCS conference through Friday, Aug. 24 (see full schedule below). Today, we feature the NEC.
SUM IT UP
(NOTE: Team by team previews in this conference are below)
Nobody is going to mistake the NEC for one of the best conferences in FCS Football, but there's definitely enough intrigue in the top half of the conference to make it worthy of your attention. Fresh off an undefeated season, Central Connecticut State wants a return trip to the playoffs to avenge a shutout loss to New Hampshire. Speaking of revenge, Duquesne wants some vengeance of its own — it blew a home lead over CCSU that eventually cost them the conference title. Bryant has the conference's best offense, which is always dangerous; Saint Francis doesn't have the best team, but it does have the best schedule.
The NEC isn't a multi-bid league, but it does have a classic horse race brewing in 2018. Who do you like? The favorite? The specialist? The dark horse? It's shaping up to be a classic season.
Read on, as we preview the Northeast Conference.
NAMES TO KNOW
THE NFL PROSPECT: Kamron Lewis, Saint Francis
Few NEC players offer the upside that Lewis has, and draft prognosticators are finally starting to recognize that.
THE VETERAN COACH: Jerry Schmitt, Duquesne
Now entering his 14th season in Pittsburgh, Schmitt has just about doubled up every other coach in the NEC.
The leader of Bryant's high-powered offense was the conference's only 3,000-yard passer last season.
A.J. Hines gets a lot of well-deserved praise, but Fulse actually outrushed him by nearly 300 yards in 2017. He edged him out in yards per game, too.
Thanks to the power and balance of Duquesne's offense, Crawford was the conference's only 1,000-yard receiver.
Wollet's 9.8 tackles per game led all NEC players.
Aside from Wollet, Costigan was the only other NEC player to post more than 100 tackles in 2017. He had a conference-best 11.5 sacks.
Roberts 0.4 interceptions per games played leads all returning NEC players.
The young corner from CCSU was one of the top players in the country in 2017 when it came to PBU's.
TOP FANBASE (*)
Duquesne fans have been far more aggressive with our previews than the other six NEC teams schools.
(*) – Based on fan engagement with our previews this summer.
RANKING THE SOUTHLAND
|RK||HERO SPORTS (CHASE)||COACHES POLL|
|1||Central Connecticut State||Central Connecticut State|
|4||Saint Francis||Saint Francis|
|6||Sacred Heart||Sacred Heart|
|7||Robert Morris||Robert Morris|
[divider]THE DIFFERENCE: I could trump up some differences here to make things interesting, but honestly, it's pretty hard to foul up the NEC's preseason pecking order. Central Connecticut State is a deserving favorite, and Duquesne is a worthy challenger. Bryant and Saint Francis are talented enough to pull upsets. After that, there's a significant drop-off. Wagner is clearly not a top-4 team, but the Seahawks are also clearly better than Sacred Heart and Robert Morris. SHU and RMU are undergoing major rebuild projects in 2018 and should be fodder for the big boys.
PREVIEWS: The NEC