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College football preview: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils vs Towson Tigers

Head coach Rob Ambrose and the Towson Tigers aim to build on their historic 2013 campaign.
Head coach Rob Ambrose and the Towson Tigers aim to build on their historic 2013 campaign.
Photo by Brandon Wade

Following the most successful season in program history, which featured 13 wins and a national championship game appearance, the Towson Tigers will kick off the 2014 season as the No. 7-ranked team in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

But before Rob Ambrose's surging Tigers can showcase themselves on the FBS stage against Big 12 hopeful West Virginia in Morgantown next month, they’ll have to prove they can hang with Central Connecticut State, a familiar but beatable foe fresh off a 4-8 season.

With kickoff fast approaching, here’s what you should be watching for on Saturday.

Connor Frazier Leads New-Look Tiger Offense

The junior signal-caller faces lofty expectations following a heroic postseason performance in last year’s FCS playoffs. But despite his relative inexperience under center (15 career passes attempted) and key losses on offense (only three of 11 starters return), Frazier possesses the versatility to thrive in the spotlight in 2014.

Whether he’s passing, running or catching the ball, Frazier projects to be the catalyst for Towson’s offense in the post-Terrance West era.

But Frazier won't be counted on to do it all this fall. Towson boasts tremendous talent and depth in the backfield, led by 2013 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year Darius Victor, who rushed for 629 yards and seven touchdowns a season ago. Rutgers transfer Dontea Ayres is another weapon Ambrose could call on in the season opener.

Meanwhile, senior Spencer Wilkins leads Towson's wide receiving unit and will be complemented by 6'3" Andre Dessenberg and the athletic DeAngelo Stephenson. Frazier will also have a pair of 6'6" tight ends to go to in Sean Mooney and Tanner Vallely.

CCSU's Swiss Army Knife

If there’s one Blue Devils player Tiger fans should have their eye on in Week 1, it’s senior running back Rob Hollomon. The dynamic playmaker was named to the CFPA (College Football Performance Awards) Running Back Award watch list and the Walter Payton Award watch list this summer. Unsurprisingly, he's rushed for 1,000-plus yards in each of the past two seasons.

In addition to lighting up defenses out of the backfield, Hollomon is a serious threat as a return man, racking up 595 return yards in 2013.

He finished 2013 with 1,452 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns and led all FCS players in averaging 189.2 all-purpose yards per game. Look for Hollomon to test Towson's defense in a variety of ways on Saturday.

Prediction

It's been more than two decades since Towson has lost a season opener at home. What's more, the Tigers are 2-0 in season-opening matchups with CCSU dating back to 1993, outscoring the Blue Devils by a combined mark of 62-17 in those games.

While the visitors feature a game-breaking talent in Hollomon, expect them to struggle against a Tiger defense that returns seven starters and an impressive secondary in 2014. Defensively, the Blue Devils will have their work cut out for them as Towson possesses a seemingly endless array of weapons.

If the Tigers don't get caught looking ahead to next weekend's highly anticipated clash with the Mountaineers, they should roll to a comfortable win inside Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Towson 42, CCSU 17