For the first time since 2013, a team with a losing record made the FCS playoffs. That season, it was the Lafayette Leopards that accomplished the ignominious feat. This year, it’s their Patriot League brethren and arch-rival, the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, that are in the postseason at 5-6.
Lehigh made the playoff by virtue of winning the Patriot League with a 5-1 conference record and a head-to-head win over Colgate. The Mountain Hawks couldn’t get a win outside of conference, though, losing by three to Villanova and then getting blown out in successive weeks by Monmouth, Yale, Pennsylvania and Wagner.
Meanwhile, Stony Brook is in the playoffs for the first time since 2012 after finishing the regular season at 9-2 with a 7-1 record in Colonial play. This is probably the best team in Seawolves history. Their only two losses came against a 9-1 South Florida team in a game in which they were tied in the fourth quarter and versus a Delaware squad that had one of the best defenses in the FCS.
FCS First Round Betting Odds
Stony Brook -19.5
Keep an Eye On…
Joe Carbone has had an amazing season considering how bad he was in his first two years at the helm of Stony Brook’s offense. He was abysmal as a freshman and sophomore, completing just a shade over 50 percent of his passes and posting a touchdown-to-interception ratio that is almost impossible to believe. In 18 games, he threw just five touchdowns but was picked off 20 times. It’s no surprise that neither of those teams ended up with winning records with numbers like that.
But this season has been much different. Carbone flipped a switch and is playing light years better than he was in his previous two years. He has completed almost 60 percent of his passes and threw for nearly 2,000 yards. The most noticeable improvement came in the form of his touchdown-to-interception ratio, though. Carbone threw 20 touchdowns against just three picks on the year. Of those three mistakes, two came against South Florida in the opener and he has thrown just one pick in his last 264 passes.
Matchup to Watch
Although the Mountain Hawks finished with a losing record, this offense has been explosive all season. Lehigh scored at least 20 points in every game and averaged 36.5 points per contest.
Brad Mayes has been great all season and has been one of the top quarterbacks in the country. He proved that you could beat a very good Villanova defense through the air in the season opener, throwing for over 400 yards and four touchdowns in a near-upset of the Wildcats. For the year, he passed for 3,500 yards and only put up one stinker of a performance, throwing five interceptions against Wagner in a blowout loss. Mayes has two solid receivers in Troy Pelletier and Gatlin Casey and these two can get open against most opponents.
Lehigh has a very good running back in Dominick Bragalone as well. He is averaging 131.3 yards per game and found the end zone 18 times this season. He took it to another level in Patriot League play, rushing for almost 700 yards and 10 touchdowns in his last four games.
This is the highest-lined game of the week. That’s because as good as Lehigh’s offense is, its defense is swiss cheese. It was absolutely shredded in non-conference play, with its best performance being when it allowed a “scant” 37 points to Wagner.
The Mountain Hawks have by far the worst run defense in the country. They are allowing 6.5 yards per run, a number that is almost a half-yard higher than any other team in the nation. Stony Brook will be more than happy to keep the ball on the ground and keep pounding away on this defense with numbers like that.
Books may be expecting a shootout, but this will just be a blowout. Stony Brook is going to be able to name the score against Lehigh and will dominate from start to finish. Don’t be surprised to see a final score of something like 48-13 in favor of the Seawolves.
Pick: Stony Brook -19.5