RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -Thanks to James Madison and its stunning comeback against Appalachian State, the Colonial Athletic Association's status as the mightiest league in the Football Championship Subdivision is bolstered by having two teams ranked No. 1 in the land.
The Dukes are No. 1 in the FCS coaches poll, with Richmond just behind them, and the Spiders are ranked No. 1 in The Sports Network writers' poll with James Madison at No. 2.
But that's not all.
The coaches also have CAA members New Hampshire at No. 8, Massachusetts at No. 10 and Delaware at No. 12; the writers have New Hampshire seventh, Delaware 17th and Massachusetts 18th. Villanova is ranked 19th in both polls, which were released Monday.
It's a high level of play that makes life challenging in the 12-team league.
Mary, you are playing teams that are very capable of, on any given day, of taking you out, and taking you out big-time.''
The top-to-bottom competitiveness makes every variable count, he said.
``You have to be concerned about weather, and injuries, and home and away status,'' said Talley, whose team hosts Richmond on Saturday. ``It's almost like the Southeastern Conference or the Big Ten. Same thing. You really have to look at a lot of the intangibles that go into a game.''
The league, however, has not always been one to be reckoned with nationally.
Mary, and the Minutemen and then Blue Hens have lost in the championship games the last two years.
Tom Yeager, commissioner of the CAA, thinks that 2004 game, played under temporary lights at Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, kick-started a football transformation in the conference.
``Our schools have really invested in football,'' Yeager said.
The CAA's philosophy of playing - and beating - bigger schools has also helped.
ippi St. 7, 2004), the Big East (New Hampshire 35, Rutgers 24, 2004), the Big Ten (New Hampshire 34, Northwestern 17, 2006), and the ACC (Richmond 13, Duke 0, 2006). Other league victims include Marshall, Army and Navy.
New Hampshire, which was No. 1 for a month in 2006 and was the last CAA team to climb to the top, has won its last four against teams in what used to be I-A, also beating Marshall 48-35 in Huntington, W.Va., last season, and Army 28-10 at West Point earlier this year.
Wildcats coach Sean McDonnell said the games are not merely the traditional paydays often associated with such matchups, and surmised that the league-wide desire to line up against Bowl Subdivision teams has only helped to accelerate the conference's climb in stature.
``I think the kids that come to our programs that are the better players want to have an opportunity to prove that they could play at that level,'' McDonnell said. ``You can use that in your recruiting to say, `Look who were going to play' and `Look where we're playing.'''
Next season, McDonnell's team will play at Pittsburgh.
First-year Richmond head coach Mike London is getting his first real taste of the CAA, although as an assistant at Virginia, his teams had several close calls with the Spiders.
em off their eight-legged perch.
``It's just a tribute to the league,'' London said. ``The proof is in the pudding.''

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