(16) Colgate (9-2) at (6) Villanova (9-2)
The Sports Network
By David Coulson, Director of FCS Football
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 29th, 1 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Villanova Stadium (12,000) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: None. Home Record: Colgate 4-1; Villanova 4-1. Away Record: Colgate 5-1; Villanova 5-2. Series Record: Villanova (3-1). Last Meeting: September 7, 2002 (Villanova, 20-0). Series Streak: Villanova has won the last three meetings. Conference: Colgate - Patriot League; Villanova - Colonial Athletic Association. Sports Network Ranking: Colgate (16); Villanova (6). Nicknames: Colgate Red Raiders; Villanova Wildcats. Coaches: Colgate - Dick Biddle (104-48); Villanova - Andy Talley (192-118-2, overall; 164-100-1 at Villanova). Playoff Record: Colgate (3-5); Villanova (3-6).
GAME NOTES: Two proud programs still looking for their first FCS championship, make playoff plans in a game where Villanova and Colgate will match strength against strength.
Villanova makes its first playoff appearance since advancing to the semifinals in 2002 and the Wildcats could have enough talent to make another deep run in 2008. Known as a finesse team in the past, Villanova has used a hard-hitting, blitzing defense and a strong, ball-control attack to grind out wins this season.
The Wildcats rank sixth nationally in rushing defense (80 yards per game) and are 17th in tackles for loss. Overall, Villanova allows 304 yards and 19.9 points per game. The centerpiece of the defense is a deep and talented defensive line, led by Buchanan Award candidate Greg Miller at defensive end (41 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks).
David Dalessandro (34 tackles, 12 tackles for loss) and Tim Kukucka (30 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) also put plenty of pressure on enemy quarterbacks. Linebacker Darrel Young, who been playing through injuries early in the year, had one of his top games of the year in a 21-7 victory over Delaware last week with nine tackles.
The Wildcats offense can attack teams in many ways, but like to control games by running the ball from a variety of formation. Chris Whitney (1,149 yards passing, 443 yards rushing, 12 combined TDs) and Antwon Young (872 yards of total offense, seven TDs) give Villanova one of the top quarterback duos in the country. Receiver Matthew Szczur (898 all-purpose yards, six TDs) will line up at QB in the Wildcat formation (a derivative of the Single Wing) and is one of the team's most dangerous weapons.
Aaron Ball (952 yards rushing, 11 TDs) and Angelo Babbaro (1,070 all-purpose yards, two TDs) help fuel a running game that averages 210 yards per game (13th nationally), while Phil Atkinson (48 catches, 10.8 average, six TDs) is the top receiver. But the key to Villanova's 32nd-ranked offense is one of the top lines in FCS, led by tackles Izzy Bauta and Ben Ijalana.
Colgate has expanded its offensive system to include the spread, along with its treasured I-formation power game. But the Raiders still look to wear down defenses with the run. Jordan Scott (1,054 yards, 5.4 average, 12 TDs) became the eighth player in FCS history to earn 1,000 yards rushing in four consecutive seasons, but it wasn't easy with him battling an ankle injury and missing three games.
When Scott wasn't available, freshman Nick Eachus blossomed into a star with 872 yards (5.4 average) and 10 touchdowns. That has helped the Raiders pile up 273 yards per game on the ground (fifth nationally) and rank 13th in total offense (420 yards).
Coach Dick Biddle has showed some flexibility with the use of his roster in a year where injuries have plagued Colgate. With quarterback Alex Relph going out early in the season, Greg Sullivan has come on to lead the offense with 1,527 yards passing and 11 TDs and 865 yards rushing with seven more scores. Pat Simonds (59 yards, 17.9 average, eight TDs) can be a game-breaking receiver.
The Colgate defense has been as strong as the offense, but it has excelled in the second half of games. That unit held Holy Cross to three points after the break in a 28-27 win last week that gave the Raiders the Patriot League title and the auto bid to the playoffs. Colgate has allowed 217 yards through the air and 152 on the ground to rank 82nd nationally in total defense. Linebacker Greg Hadley leads the team with 70 tackles.
Colgate has struggled against playoff competition outside of its 2003 run to the national championship game, where it lost 40-0 to Delaware. And Villanova provides a poor matchup for the Raiders in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 35, Colgate 14.
11/27 14:36:32 ET