The Richmond Spiders will, for the first time since 2009, be spending their Thanksgiving preparing for a playoff game.
The Spiders will host the Morgan State Bears, a 7-5 team, two days after stuffing their faces the way only football players can. The home playoff game for Richmond will come one week after the team was not sure whether it would earn a spot in the tournament at all.
A comparison of these teams’ bodies of work reveals a heavy advantage for the Spiders. Richmond has had an up-and-down season, but still had signature wins against top-25 programs, including Villanova, Liberty and William & Mary. The Bears, however, lost against Norfolk State, 4-8, and won by just three points against Hampton, a team that the Spiders defeated handily early in the season.
Despite the strength-of-schedule discrepancy between these teams, there is some commonality. Both teams just won much-needed games, and did so convincingly. The Spiders won a road game against the Tribe 34-20, while the Bears hosted Delaware State and won 69-7.
Because of big wins last weekend, both teams will be carrying momentum going into this game. The Spiders still appear to be more dangerous than the Bears, though, particularly because quarterback Michael Strauss returned to form last Saturday.
Strauss’ play will have a major impact on this game, as it does in every game. The quarterback showed mobility and quick decision making, and looked as comfortable in the pocket as he has all year. If Strauss can build on last week’s performance, the Bears will be in trouble at Robins Stadium.
The stats are in Richmond’s favor, too. The Spiders have scored three more points per game than the Bears, and against higher-quality opponents. The Bears are also allowing about 350 yards per game defensively, and allowed more than 500 yards to Villanova, the team most similar to Richmond on Morgan State’s schedule.
The only true weakness in Richmond’s stat line is the turnover margin, but even that issue was fixed against William & Mary. The Spiders recovered two fumbles and caught an interception on defense, and the offense did not turn the ball over. Morgan State is not particularly strong with turnovers either — the Bears have forced 20 this season, and the Spiders have forced 19.
Because it is a playoff game, and because it is the Richmond Spiders, anything could happen on Saturday. The Spiders have proven that they can win against great teams, and lose against not-so-great teams, so it’s hard to have solid expectations for the team. Considering last week’s performance by the defense and Strauss’ health, though, the Spiders should win at home against Morgan State, and should do so convincingly. That’s a strong should, though.
The game will kick off 1 p.m. Saturday at Robins Stadium. Expect a close game — the Spiders are solid, but the Bears’ 69-point performance last week was no fluke.
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