Game: Old Dominion vs. University of Albany
Where: Foreman Field
When: 6 PM
Where to watch: ESPN3
Betting line: ODU -15.5, over/under 54.5 (ODU 35, UA 19.5)
It’s the best time of year as college football is back! The Monarch faithful will wake up eagerly awaiting the day’s game for the first time in 254 days, but who’s counting? The first opponent the Old Dominion Monarchs will face in 2017 will be an FCS opponent, the University of Albany Great Danes!
Location: Albany, New York
Conference: CAA (5th year)
2016 record: 7-4 (.636)
2016 ending conference record and ranking: 4-4 (t-6th)
2016 ending national record: NR
Key contributors lost from 2016:
Offense: Matthew Campion (OL) 38 starts, Kevin Malloy (OL) 35 starts and 3-time all-CAA third team member, Adam Wierbinski (OL) 46 starts at center, Michael Senn (OL) 38 starts
Defensive: Michael Nicastro (LB) 126 total tackles last season, 3 interceptions, started all 11 games. First- team all-CAA defense, Rayshan Clark (CB) 40 total tackles, team-high 5 interceptions, fumble return for a touchdown, second-team all-CAA defense, Abner Logan (LB) 96 total tackles, 2 sacks, Neil Morrison (LB) 49 total tacks, 2 forced fumbles
Special Teams: Jon Martin (P) 60 punts for a 42.3 yard average
This will be an interesting season for the Albany Great Danes; replacing four offensive linemen that have 157 combined starts is never an easy task. Redshirt-senior lineman, Tim Wade, will be a great replacement as he has gotten pivotal playing time the last two years having played in 22 games. I haven’t been able to locate a depth-chart but I have to assume that the starting line won’t consist of more than 20 combined starts.
This could provide a perfect tune-up for an experienced ODU defensive line that returns two of the conference’s best pass-rushers, Oshane Ximines and Bunmi Rotimi. The good news for Albany is that they return a slew of skilled position players including their Athlon FCS sports pre-season all-american candidate, Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks. Ibitokun-Hanks was named a first-team all-CAA offensive player in 2016, leading the CAA and ranking fourth in the nation with over 1,400 rushing yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. If anyone can make a play out of nothing, it is that kid! He is the real deal, but we will see what he can do without a veteran O-line leading the way.
On defense the Great Danes lost four of their biggest contributors. Michael Nicastro was the leader of the defense, leading the conference in fumble recoveries as well as tying for fourth in total tackles. The lost of Nicastro, along with fellow linebacker Abner Logan, could prove detrimental to the Great Danes run defense. On the upside, second team all-CAA defensive lineman, Malachi Hoskins is back to lead the defense and should be able to make up the difference for the heavy losses.
Keys to the game for the Monarchs:
The major key (cue DJ Khaled voice) for the Monarchs is to get starting quarterback, Blake LaRussa, comfortable early. The best way to do this is to get him throwing screen passes and short crossing pattern routes; Coach Scott’s seemingly favorite route other than the fly route. I don’t see the Monarchs going long much this game due to Larussa being inexperienced and Albany having two seasoned safeties in the secondary: Josh Wynn and Mason Gray were both starters for every game last year and totaled 145 tackles and 4 interceptions. Look for the Monarchs to rely on their two-headed running back duo to get the job done.
With an experienced offensive line and quite possibly the best running-back core outside of Power 5 football and Albany having to replace two of their best run-stoppers, I expect a strong showing from both Ray Lawry and Jeremy Cox. I expect it to be a back and forth battle between the offensive line of ODU and the defensive line of Albany. Both have playmakers and are experienced, so it’ll come down to the excellent running ability of both running backs to find the holes and get through to the secondary.
The defensive line will prove their dominance this game. I am extremely excited to see how much havoc the four up front (Rotimi, Tyson, Fox Jr., and Ximines) create this year. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say the unit could easily have a record day due to the inexperience of the offensive line of Albany.
An offense is completely dependent on how the line blocks and I don’t see an inexperienced line being able to block two possible first-team all-CUSA members. No time for the quarterback to go through his progression and no holes opening up for the running backs will equal a big day for an ODU defense coming off a stellar end to 2016.
- Ray Lawry rushes for more yards than Albany has offensive yards. Remember, this is the man who went off for 200+ against EMU in 2015. I could see that happening again with the focus being on the ground game.
- Blake Larussa will have a seemingly flawless game. I think with how the coaching staff will call the game, it will leave very little room for error. Blake will play to his skillset, throw short, high-percentage balls that will go for long gains.
- Isaiah Harper will score as both a wide receiver and on Special Teams. He’s a playmaker, just trying to make myself seem smarter than I actually am when this comes to fruition.
Prediction: Old Dominion wins in convincing fashion, 52-20.
What are your thoughts on the game? Tell me your predictions in the comments below!
**All information gathered for this piece was taken from ODUsports.com and UAlbanysports.com**