My mentions were as hot as they've been all year on Saturday evening, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why.
Hello. Chase Kiddy here, writing to you in the form of an article that's two part editorial, one part thesis defense and one part things I say out loud to myself in the shower. Go ahead and hold your questions until the end, because I'm probably just going to go stream of consciousness for a little while.
I have a reputation for being the guy who keeps it real, even when it's not polite, appropriate or politically expedient. (Just ask any of my ex-girlfriends.) I think many of my readers appreciate that about me. Somewhere along the line, though, a few people must have gotten it in their heads that I'm something of a CAA apologist. I know this, because I personally got a surprisingly large amount of flak after Colonial teams went 0-3 last Saturday in playoff matchups against non-CAA opponents.
Let me set the scene for you. It was Saturday evening, and all the CAA games at the Kiddy FCS Headquarters had just wrapped up. Often times, I opt to work from the Bridgeforth Stadium press box on Saturdays during the season, but last weekend, I thought it would be a better idea to work off-site at a place where I could watch as many live playoff games as possible. I got together with my team of extremely qualified sports analysts (read: three of my close friends from high school & college) and we set up shop in a high-tech Charlottesville office (read: my best friend's bougey apartment with a well-stocked fridge). After some light refreshments, it was time to get down to brass tax.
All of a sudden, righteous indignation rained down upon my humble office. Facebook Tags! Twitter Tweets! The CAA was overrated, and someone needed to be held accountable, damn it! I could practically feel the anthrax being poured into the envelope and mailed to my Harrisonburg abode, right then and there.
The CAA did not, in fact, have a very good weekend. Elon was stifled in a 19-7 loss at Wofford. Stony Brook gave away a game at Southeast Missouri State. Towson allowed four unanswered touchdowns at home to Duquesne in the most puzzling loss of the first round.
All that is to say nothing of a rock fight between JMU and Delaware, a game where one team obviously had to lose, but neither school came out looking particularly great. It was a survive-and-advance sort of win for Madison.
Week One was not a good look for the Colonial. In fact, if you can believe it, Elon, Stony Brook and Towson scored a combined zero points after halftime in their respective games. All three were leading at the break, and all three lost. Let's call a spade a spade. It's a fairly embarrassing outcome for the conference.
However, I'm not prepared to call the conference overrated, nor do I think one weekend of football negates the season-long body of work that the conference posted throughout September and October.
CAA REWIND: How'd We Get Here?
"The CAA shouldn't have gotten six teams in the field," I heard quite a few times. No? Who should have made the field instead? I'm willing to accept Indiana State as an answer, but I think we all collectively looked around and agreed on that already. Swap Incarnate Word for the Sycamores, sure, but that still leaves the CAA with six teams in the field — a field, by the way, that probably wouldn't have six teams from any conference if the bubble hadn't been historically weak.
Let's talk about the losses themselves. Elon? A young team missing key players couldn't hold onto a shallow lead late in the game. Tough to blame the Phoenix for that.
Stony Brook? I saw someone describe SEMO's 28-14 win as a blowout, and it's never been more evident that somebody was talking about a game they did not watch. SBU outplayed Southeast in nearly every facet of the game, but a third-quarter turnover avalanche swung the game entirely in the other direction. Stony Brook allowed four touchdowns in one quarter and none in the other three.
Towson… yeah, I don't have anything for you there. I get that A.J. Hines is awesome, and I get that the weather was pretty bad here in the DMV, but the CAA's best offensive team can't get shut out for 30+ minutes by a team from the NEC. That's inexcusable.
Let's talk about the rest of the playoffs. JMU and Maine are all that remain after just one week; Maine is a 3-point home dog to Jacksonville State on Saturday, and the Dukes have a daunting path that includes beating the Bison in Fargo just to get to the semifinals. It's likely that the Colonial won't have any teams among the final four.
All that is fair game for criticism, but I'm not sure it unspools the accomplishments of the regular season. The CAA went 20-4 in non-conference games during the regular season and picked up two FBS upsets as well. A 12-team conference had 11 teams either make the playoffs or beat a team that did. By any modern standard, the Colonial had a banner year, and I'm not sure one bad weekend should override a season of excellence.
Just ask 2017 South Dakota State.
Or any Sam Houston State team from the last five years.
Or the 2016 Big Sky conference.
When the CAA develops a habit of playoff flameouts, I'll be the first in line to criticize it, as I have with Jacksonville State and the Southland conference. Until then, let's keep the CAA mockery at an appropriately modest simmer and off the hot take plate. One bad Saturday in November doesn't negate an entire season's worth of compelling data. The conference isn't quite there just yet.
PLAYOFF CHEAT SHEET: Everything You Need to Know for Week Two of the FCS Playoffs