The “South’s Oldest Rivalry” will add a meaningful chapter to its storied history on Saturday, as the University of Richmond Spiders and the College of William & Mary Tribe battle for a playoff spot in the FCS tournament.
The game will feature a matchup of two teams with identical records (7-4 and 4-3 in CAA) and aspirations. The winning team will earn a spot in the playoffs, and the losing team will be eliminated from playoff contention, multiple Richmond players said.
The last four games in this series have been split 2-2, with Richmond winning the last two games and William & Mary winning the two before that. Richmond has won seven of the last nine games, though, controlling the last decade of the rivalry.
On paper, Richmond has been a better team than the Tribe this season. The Spiders earn about 140 more yards of offense per game than the Tribe, and allow about 80 fewer yards defensively per game. In most statistical categories, Richmond sits in the top three teams in the conference, while William & Mary is ranked in the middle.
There is a statistic, though, that could make all of the others irrelevant. Richmond is penultimate in the CAA in turnovers with 28 this season, and William & Mary has committed just eight. Following last week’s loss to James Madison University, head coach Danny Rocco called turnovers “the Achilles’ heal” of his team. As Richmond learned in its last two losses, it is difficult to win with five turnovers.
Despite notable statistical discrepancies between these teams, stats often don’t accurately predict the outcome of football games, especially those played in the CAA. This was evident when Richmond was upended by the University of Maine Black Bears (3-5 at the time) two weeks ago.
The biggest uncertainty headed into this game is which Richmond team will show up. The Spiders have been at times explosive on offense and dominant on defense, but in the past few weeks the team has been unimpressive on both sides of the ball. In its last two games, Richmond has appeared to lack motivation and preparedness.
One would think these characteristics would change this week, because the stakes are high and the rivalry is usually enough motivation itself. But with this year’s Richmond team, anything could happen.
For the Spiders, this week’s game should not be about the Tribe, but rather themselves. Richmond has proven it’s capable of beating top teams such as Villanova University, but in recent weeks the Spiders have hurt themselves with turnovers and what has looked like poor effort.
If the Spiders can become the team they were earlier this season, expect a victory against the Tribe. But if Richmond’s play is at all reminiscent of the past two weeks, the Tribe should capitalize and earn a victory.
The game will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Contact sports editor Charlie Broaddus at email@example.com
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