5 Keys to the Game
Olawale takes a tumble vs. Fordham last year
1) Columbia's D-Line needs to beat Fordham's O-Line
Fordham's offensive line was questionable coming into the season, and now its best overall lineman, Robby Reis, is out. The Lions need Lou Miller, Owen Fraser and company to dominate this matchup, force Ram QB John Skelton out of the pocket, and most importantly, get some licks on running back Xavier Martin before he accelerates to the line of scrimmage.
Martin has been the key to Fordham's wins over Columbia the last two season, mostly thanks to his great speed. Luckily, he's not the biggest guy on the field, so you can slow him down if you get to him quickly.
2) Columbia's O-line must beat Fordham's D-line
Fordham's defensive line also seems weaker than it has been the last two years while the Lions offensive line has a great mix of experience and talent. I'm not sure if Columbia will be able to run the ball down the Rams' throats, (sorry Serena), or give Olawale an hour to pass every time, but the Lions have the ability to win the battle of the line of scrimmage on both offense and defense and they need to do just that.
3) Columbia's Outside Backers must contain Fordham's Receivers
The Rams throw the ball a lot, but not so much down the field. They attack the corners and the flats and look for their receivers to take off after the catch. That means guys like Alex Gross need to shut down that part of the field and harass the receivers as much as possible. This will also be a big test for projected new middle linebacker starter Marc Holloway, who needs to read Fordham's multi-faceted offense accurately to be effective.
4) Millie the Passer vs. Millie the Runner: There Can Be NO Conflict!
Millie Olawale is possibly the most talented and effective running QB Columbia has ever had, and certainly is the best running signal caller we've had since Mike Cavanaugh '96. But at some point he's going to need to pass, preferrably to the best Columbia wide receiver in a generation: Austin Knowlin. Millie doesn't need to run for 100 yards and pass for 250, but he does need to present a credible threat to do both and make Fordham's defense act accordingly.
5) Columbia's Rustiness vs. the Rams' Sloppiness
It's been 300 days since the Lions last played a game that mattered. But this senior-dominated team is going to have to come looking more ready to play than Fordham did in their opener on September 5th when the Rams fumbled and stumbled all over the field at URI.
Olawale needs to run the offense like he knows what he's doing on every play. The offensive line needs to get in sync and not jump offsides. Handoffs need to be made cleanly. The defense can't be jumping offsides or getting caught napping.