No. 19 Towson (6-4, 5-2 Colonial Athletic Association) vs. No. 7 New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1 CAA)
When: Saturday, noon
Site: Cowell Stadium, Durham, N.H.
Series: New Hampshire leads, 7-1
What's at stake: Thanks to three straight conference wins, Towson is in position to defend its CAA crown and earn a spot in the FCS playoffs. But it won't come easily playing against the conference-leading Wildcats on the road. If the Tigers pull off another stunner, it could create chaos in the CAA standings. A victory by Towson would pull the Tigers even with New Hampshire (Old Dominion is also 6-1 in the conference but ineligible for the championship). However, James Madison, Villanova and Richmond are also 5-2 and could create a a five-way tie for first-place if they all win. The Tigers' best scenario is to upset the Wildcats and have only Villanova win its matchup against Delaware, as Towson owns the tie-breaker. It gets interesting if Richmond and Towson tie, seeing as they didn't play one another. The tiebreaker would then go to the ELO-Chess number, which takes into account strength of schedule.
Key Matchup: The battle on third downs will go a long way to determining Saturday's winner, as both the Wildcats and Tigers are among the best in the conference in converting on third down. New Hampshire is No. 2 with a 49.3 percent conversion rate, and Towson is third (48.5 percent). The Tigers hold the advantage defensively, only allowing opponents to convert third downs at a 34.7 percent rate, best in the CAA. The Wildcats rank ninth at 44.1 percent.
Player to Watch: Keep an eye on Towson wide receiver Tom Ryan. The senior has emerged as the Tigers' best receiver late in the season, leading the team with 39 catches, 473 receiving yards, a 12.1 yards-per-catch average and three touchdowns. New Hampshire ranks last in the CAA in pass defense, giving up 271 yards per game through the air. If quarterback Grant Enders can exploit that, Ryan might have another big game. Last week he had seven catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Rhode Island.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun