To date, the Richmond Spiders have had a relatively soft CAA slate. They play Villanova, Maine, James Madison and William & Mary in the final four weeks of the season. But don't let that fool you - they took New Hampshire to the wire in a 29-26 home loss in September. That's the closest any FCS team has come to taking down the other CAA frontrunner this year.
Things have changed in recent weeks however, and this is a different Spiders team missing a few key parts. The teams will meet at 12:00pm ET on Saturday in a game that will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.
Here are three things to know about Richmond:
Their top QB & WR are injured
The win over Albany in early October came at quite the cost. Quarterback Michael Strauss (ankle) and his favorite wide receiver Stephen Barnette (knee) both went down and were ruled out for the season. The all-conference duo formed one of the most electric combinations in the CAA and Strauss in particular was receiving some Walter Payton hype.
In Barnette's absence, Reggie Diggs has stepped in to the spotlight, but expect Richmond to give running backs Seth Fisher and Jacobi Green plenty of work as well.
Strauss' replacement should worry you
Michael Rocco is a senior who started his career at Virginia and is finishing as a grad student at Richmond. He transferred to continue playing, not because he wasn't doing well at Virginia. In his last two years of action he completed 60.6% of his passes for 4,588 yards, 26 TDs and 22 INTs. He can sling it.
He's not much of a threat to run at all, but that hasn't been Villanova's defensive issue lately. The 'Cats D has struggled against QBs that can drop back and pick a pass against their zone coverage. The pass rush has begun to fade late in the season and the blitzes aren't getting home as often as they need to. If Rocco has time to survey the field, he'll put some points up.
The defense is streaky
Excluding the thumping that Virginia handed them, the Spiders' D is giving up just 19 ppg. Upon closer examination of the schedule though, the story changes. The Spiders' last two opponents - Rhode Island and Elon - put up 0 and 10 points, respectively. The three games prior didn't go as well. New Hampshire (29), Liberty (39-2OT) and Albany (28) found much more success.
Richmond will come in with plenty of confidence, but as noted they haven't been tested in several weeks. That will change Saturday.