The Daily Item
— BETHEHEM - Defending league champion Colgate was tabbed as the Patriot League's preseason favorite in football, it was announced today at the league's annual Media Day in Bethlehem.
The Raiders earned the top spot with 58 points and eight first-place votes, just ahead of the Mountain Hawks with 56 points and the remaining six first-place votes. Holy Cross (35), Lafayette (32), Georgetown (26) and Bucknell (15) completed the preseason rankings, which were voted on by Patriot League football head coaches and sports information directors.
Fordham was not included in the poll because it will not be able to compete for the Patriot League championship and NCAA automatic bid in 2013, and its games against League members will not count towards the final standings for either team. The Rams have been ineligible for the Patriot League title since awarding athletic merit aid to the class entering in the fall of 2010, which was against Patriot League policy. The Patriot League Council of Presidents approved in February 2012 a change in policy that allows athletic merit aid for football student-athletes that began with the class entering in the fall of 2013. The Rams will become eligible for the Patriot League Championship and NCAA automatic qualification spot beginning in the 2014 season.
Colgate lost some key players from last year's championship team, but they return the biggest piece in senior quarterback Gavin McCarney, the Patriot League Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Fullback Ed Pavalko and offensive lineman Andrew Scarmardo are also preseason picks on offense, but five All-Patriot League players from last year's record-setting group have departed. Colgate's defense gave up nearly 32 points per game last season, but has key players back including linebacker Kris Kent and preseason All-League defensive back Mike Armiento. Colgate is trying to repeat as Patriot League champion for the first time since 2002-03.
Bucknell has to rebound from a 3-8 season, but has pieces in place with an experienced quarterback, strong offensive line and key returnees on defense. Brandon Wesley enters his fourth season as the team's starting quarterback, and has the benefit of returning his top two wide receivers (Victor Walker and Josh Brake), All-Patriot League fullback Travis Friend and four starters on the offensive line. The defense boasts four preseason All-Patriot League picks, with Sean Sellers and Tracey Smith on the line, Evan Byers at linebacker and Matthew Steinbeck at defensive back. The unit gave up 21 points or less seven times last season.