Is Lafayette a Contender For an At-Large Berth?

Lafayette is a quiet 4-1, but will a 9-win season against a weak slate be enough for them to follow Fordham’s footsteps and secure an at-large bid?

Lafayette is 4-1
Source: Lafayette Athletics

There was no shortage of storylines in the Patriot League this Saturday. Harvard exposed the Holy Cross Crusaders in the EBW Classic, also known as "The Rose Bowl of the Bay State," at Polar Park. Georgetown stole headlines with an upset over a 2022 playoff team and owner of a win over Buffalo, Fordham.

However, one team receiving little exposure is Lafayette. The Leopards are a quiet 4-1, one of a handful of teams still undefeated against FCS competition. Lafayette's resume is impressive by Patriot League standards, but will it hold up nationally?

Lafayette defeated a struggling Sacred Heart squad by only five in week one, followed by a 42-7 loss to Duke. Currently, the Leopards are winners of three straight with wins against Columbia, 2-3 Monmouth, and a 56-22 thrashing of Bucknell.

Lafayette can realistically win the rest of its games, with the most difficult tests being Holy Cross and possibly Princeton. All anyone can ask of a team is to beat the teams in front of them, and Lafayette has done just that so far. Yet, the Leopards may need many moving pieces to secure an at-large playoff berth should Holy Cross go undefeated in the Patriot League.

Beginning with their non-conference slate, Lafayette would need Monmouth to end with a winning record in the CAA. Yet, the CAA's multiple non-conference stumbles have depreciated the value of a non-conference win against the league.

Monmouth has one of the most arduous slates in the conference, including games against Elon, William & Mary, New Hampshire, and UAlbany. At best, Monmouth looks like a team that will end the year with a losing record.

Princeton has uncharacteristically struggled, with a loss to Bryant and a win over Columbia that required a 4th and goal touchdown in the final two minutes. Princeton could contend for the Ivy League title as Yale and Harvard have both struggled too, but they could be in the running for the weakest Ivy League champion in recent memory at year's end.

A 9-2 Lafayette would have a strong resume, but it pales compared to Fordham's resume last year. The Rams went 3-0 against CAA teams (albeit those that combined for a 10-23 record), nearly beat MAC East champion Ohio, and went 5-1 in the Patriot League with only an overtime loss to Holy Cross and all wins coming by at least 14 points. Even with this body of work, the Rams were hardly a certainty for an at-large bid.

For serious consideration, Lafayette must dominate every other Patriot League game should they lose to Holy Cross. Other pieces must fall into place, like UT-Martin or Eastern Illinois imploding in the Big South-OVC. North Carolina Central must take care of business and earn the Celebration Bowl bid to prevent a MEAC team from taking an at-large spot.

Harvard is arguably Lafayette's biggest enemy in their pursuit of an at-large bid. Holy Cross' loss to Harvard hurt the national perception of the Patriot League.

Despite all the goodwill the Crusaders built for the league again, it appears the conference is back to square one to the public, back to being the same league that struggles in non-conference play. This alone could be the factor that keeps a 9-2 or 8-3 Lafayette squad out of the postseason.