In this Nov. 19, 2016, file photo, senior wide receiver Troy Pelletier catches a pass against Lafayette at Fisher Stadium. Pelletier is an All-American wide receiver with over 1,000 receiving yards this season. (Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

Why will Lehigh win the 153rd Rivalry game?


Home-field advantage.

A Patriot League title on the line.

A chance to beat its archrival for a third consecutive year.

Lehigh will not squander this opportunity, especially in front of a packed Goodman Stadium.

Lehigh has won the last seven of nine matchups in The Rivalry, so let’s not ignore that this has been a one-sided rivalry as of late, which seems to be the case in most matchups between Lehigh and Lafayette athletic teams.

As atrocious as the Patriot League has been this year, Lehigh is still the best team in the conference. Even after a 0-5 start in nonconference play and the loss of several players to injuries, Lehigh has cruised to a 4-1 mark in league play behind its high-powered offense.

The Mountain Hawks are led by the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year favorite junior running back Dom Bragalone, who leads the FCS in total touchdowns with 19 on the year.

Lehigh also has an All-American wide receiver in senior Troy Pelletier, who has put together another productive year. Even with junior quarterback Brad Mayes starting his first Rivalry game, he has plenty of experience to guide him.

On the other side, Lafayette has been somewhat of a surprise this season. The Leopards came in at 3-2 in Patriot League play and can still share the Patriot League title with a win over Lehigh and if Colgate loses its game against Georgetown. However, Lafayette will not receive the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs if it shares the title with Colgate and Lehigh, so the Leopards will be playing their final game of the year this Saturday. Their motive is to end Lehigh’s streak in The Rivalry and, ultimately, Lehigh’s hopes of winning another conference championship.

I do believe the Leopards’ record is a bit misleading. Although Lafayette’s defense has been impressive, its offense has been abysmal. Lafayette has yet to score more than 24 points in a game this season. The most points the Leopards have scored in a win this year was 14 against Fordham.

I don’t care how good their defense is — they’re not holding Lehigh’s offense to 14 points. The least Lehigh has scored in the Patriot League this season was 34 points last weekend. While Lehigh has been one of the worst defensive teams statistically in the country, the Mountain Hawks have allowed 21 points in each of their last two games with both opponents scoring late garbage-time touchdowns. If you want to beat Lehigh, it will not be in a defensive battle.

Yes, records and season performances are usually thrown out the window when these two teams face off, but there’s too much firepower on Lehigh’s offense to ignore.

It was the same case in last year’s game when Lehigh came out and bulldozed over the Leopards, essentially putting the game away in the first half.

I’ll be honest. Lafayette could reach its highest point total of the year on offense, but it’s nearly impossible to slow down an offense that can hurt in so many ways, whether it’s on the ground or in the air. The Leopards won’t be able to keep up. Lehigh will cruise to victory to win the Patriot League for a second straight year, and Bragalone will receive MVP honors.

Prediction: Lehigh 38, Lafayette 14

Now read why Lafayette will win.

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