College football

No playoff talk by William and Mary's Laycock yet

If you're looking for excuses to avoid Christmas shopping and holiday spending options that don't involve barstools, that football factory in Williamsburg has just the thing: playoff tickets.

William and Mary officials make it clear, at the top of the order form, that it's not a done deal, but "in the event" the school hosts NCAA playoff games at Zable Stadium, there are dates and prices leading all the way up to the semifinals. Just a mouse click away.

None of that, obviously, comes from the Jimmye Laycock Football Nerve Center. The Tribe's longtime coach doesn't channel his inner Mora when somebody mentions the P-word, but he makes it clear that he spends approximately zero time pondering postseason as long as regular-season games remain.

"I don't know anything about this playoff stuff. As long as I've been here, I don't know," Laycock joked Monday's CAA coaches teleconference. "You all can figure that out better than I can. I just want to get ready for another ball game and see what happens after that."

Indeed, while the playoffs are the long-term goal, Saturday's heavyweight Football Championship Subdivision regular-season finale between the Tribe and Richmond at UR Stadium will go a long way toward deciding who plays where, when the 16-team postseason field is announced Sunday.

Both teams are 9-1, fixtures in the top 10 and all but assured playoff spots. The winner earns a share of the CAA title and figures to be awarded at least a couple of home games, based on seeding. The loser depends upon the largesse of the NCAA selection committee.

"You get down to this point in the year," Richmond coach Mike London said, "and you play a game that has championship implications on the line, and that's the way it should be."

The Spiders are the defending national champs, winning the title after finishing third in the CAA. William and Mary returns to the postseason chase and the national discussion after a four-year hiatus, including a couple of seasons in the competitive wilderness.

Their seasons mirror each other almost uncannily. Identical records. One ranked fourth, the other fifth.

Both play superior defense and run the ball effectively. Both are at the top of the CAA in the major offensive and defensive categories. Both stepped up a level and defeated ACC teams to begin the season, the Tribe beating Virginia and UR beating Duke. Both lost to Villanova.

"They're both really awesome teams at this time of the year," longtime Nova coach Andy Talley said. "It would be like watching a national championship game, actually."

There's some cross-pollination between the current programs, as well. Laycock gave London his first full-time coaching gig, as an assistant at W&M in the early 1990s.

London, a Hampton native and Bethel High grad, is forever grateful and speaks almost reverently of Laycock. He referred to Laycock as an "icon" in college coaching because of his success and longevity.

"I know Coach (Laycock) is very proud of his accomplishments," London said. "He wouldn't say that, but I'll say it. I'm proud for him and look to the things that he's done. He's put William and Mary football on the map in the state of Virginia and in the forefront of CAA football."

The architect of UR's defense was former coordinator Russ Huesman, now the head coach at Chattanooga and a longtime assistant at William and Mary. Spiders assistant Dave Legg, a Newport News native, also worked on W&M's staff in the early 1990s.

The respect between the head coaches is a two-way street.

"Mike's, first, a very good person," Laycock said. "I think you start with the type of individual. When Mike first joined our staff, I had heard all the good things about him as a person, and certainly that proved true.

"He's maintained that in my contacts with him throughout his coaching career. He's always been the same person. He's a good person. He's done a great, great job there at Richmond, he's done a great job."

Oh, and by the way, William and Mary-Richmond is only the oldest college football rivalry in the South and the fourth-oldest in the country. They meet for the 119th time — Richmond has won the last four — and for the last time at UR Stadium before the Spiders move onto an on-campus facility next season.

Unless, perhaps, the two meet again in the playoffs before the national title game in Chattanooga. But that's getting way ahead of ourselves.

There's still turkey and cranberries and maybe even a brush with Black Friday.

"It'll be a great game," London said. "I know the atmosphere is going to be exciting. Their fans, our fans, last home game, everything that's at stake for this particular game. A good college football game, I think, is going to be played."

Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at dfairbank@dailypress.com. For more from Fairbank, read his blog at dailypress.com/fromthetarpit.

What's at stake for the Tribe

4Year losing streak against Richmond entering Saturday's game

7-1Record in the CAA and at least a share of the conference championship

Saturday's game

WHO: No. 5 W&M (9-1, 6-1 CAA) at No. 4 Richmond (9-1, 6-1).

WHEN/TV: Noon; Cox 11.

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