The preseason poll in the former Division I-AA was released Monday. There’s some regional interest —- seven of the top 25 teams are CAA members —- but it also serves as a tangible hint of what games could be particularly troublesome for major-college teams. Of course, most of those programs schedule one game against a lower-division team each year.
And sometimes, those contests become bigger headaches than expected.
Here’s the top 25, with the big-name opponents for each team; note the local big boys that could be facing a stern test in the season’s opening week:
1. Eastern Washington: at Washington, Sept. 3
2. Appalachian State: at Virginia Tech, Sept. 3
3. William & Mary: at Virginia, Sept. 3
4. Georgia Southern: at Alabama, Nov. 19
5. Delaware: at Navy, Sept. 3
6. Montana State: at Utah, Sept. 1
7. Northern Iowa: at Iowa State, Sept. 3
8. Wofford: at Clemson, Sept. 10
9. Jacksonville State: at Kentucky, Oct. 22
10. New Hampshire: at Toledo, Sept. 1
11. North Dakota State: at Minnesota, Sept. 24
12. Montana: at Tennessee, Sept. 3
13. Lehigh: None
14. Villanova: at Temple, Sept. 1
15. James Madison: at North Carolina, Sept. 3
16. Richmond: at Duke, Sept. 3
17. Stephen F. Austin: at Baylor, Sept. 17
18. Central Arkansas: at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 10, at Arkansas State, Sept. 24
19. Southern Illinois: at Mississippi, Sept. 10
20. McNeese State: at Kansas, Sept. 3
21. Chattanooga: at Nebraska, Sept. 3
22. Liberty: at N.C. State, Sept. 3
23. South Carolina State: at Central Michigan, Sept. 1, at Indiana, Sept. 17
24. Sacramento State: at Oregon State, Sept. 3
25. Massachusetts: at Boston College, Sept. 24
Yep, Navy, Virginia and Virginia Tech all face top-five opponents (from a lower division) in their openers. Considering Navy and Virginia both lost to their opening-week foes within the last four years, there is certainly the chance of a harrowing debut for both teams.
As for the teams most likely to spring an upset? Northern Iowa and Villanova stand out, along with a William & Mary outfit that won’t have the benefit of catching Virginia off-guard again.
—- Patrick Stevens