(17) Holy Cross (9-2) at (2) Villanova (10-1)
The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 12 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Villanova Stadium (12,000) -- Villanova, Pennsylvania. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: None. Home Record: Holy Cross 6-0; Villanova 5-0. Away Record: Holy Cross 3-2; Villanova 5-1. Series Record: Villanova (12-9). Last Meeting: September 9, 1989 (Holy Cross, 38-17 at Holy Cross). Series Streak: Holy Cross has won the last two meetings. Conference: Holy Cross - Patriot League; Villanova - Colonial Athletic Association. Sports Network Ranking: Holy Cross (17); Villanova (2). Nicknames: Holy Cross Crusaders; Villanova Wildcats. Coaches: Holy Cross - Tom Gilmore (39-27); Villanova - Andy Talley (203-120-2, overall; 175-111-1 at Villanova). Playoff Record: Holy Cross (0-1); Villanova (4-7).
GAME NOTES: No. 2 seeded Villanova and Holy Cross will play for the first time in 20 years when the two conference champions face off in the first round of the 2009 FCS playoffs.
Holy Cross took the 1989 matchup, 38-17, on the way to the Crusader's third Patriot League title in four years.
The Crusaders are making its first playoff appearance since 1983 and captured their first Patriot League title since 1991. Holy Cross clinched the title with a 28-26 win over Lafayette two weeks ago, but fell to Bucknell, 23-17 last weekend while resting a number of starters.
Payton Award nominated quarterback Dominic Randolph (3,903 yards of total offense, 37 TDs) is the nation's leader in total offense and leads Holy Cross' third-ranked passing offense.
The senior is the active career leader in total offense and touchdowns and has thrown at least 30 touchdowns in three straight seasons. He also holds the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (41 games), breaking the late Steve McNair's all-time mark. Randolph continued his streak with one touchdown pass against the Bison.
The Crusaders' receiving group features a corps of solid performers in Luke Chmielinski (56 catches, 12.9 average, four TDs), Bill Edger (42 catches, 17.0 average, four TDs) and Freddie Santana (42 catches, 13.7 average, eight TDs). Chmielinski led the group with four catches against Bucknell.
Running back Matt Bellomo (436 yards rushing, four TDs) is the Crusaders' leading rusher behind Randolph. The unit ranks 76th in FCS and racked up just 102 yards against a less than stellar Bucknell squad.
Defensively, the Crusaders have surrendered 21 points and 376 yards per game. The unit has allowed at least 20 points in five straight games, putting pressure on the offense.
Linebacker Marcus Rodriguez (97 tackles, six pass breakups), defensive tackle Mude Ohimor (33 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss) and cornerback Michael Wright (13 pass breakups, three interceptions) are key performers. Wright picked off a pass against Bucknell.
Villanova capped off its first title since 1997 by beating Delaware 30-12 and will make its second straight post-season appearance.
The Wildcats took down Colgate, 55-28, in last year's first round before falling to James Madison, 31-27 in the second round.
The 2009 Colonial Athletic Association offensive player of the year Matt Szczur (1,475 combined yards, 10 TDs) returned the opening kickoff 91 yards to the house against Colgate and racked up 111 combined yards and two touchdowns against James Madison.
Szczur leads the 2009 Wildcat offense that ranks sixth in rushing and 20th in total offense. He also ranks fourth nationally kickoff returns (27.4 average).
All-CAA performer Chris Whitney (2,141 yards of total offense, 19 TDs, three interceptions) is a solid duel-threat quarterback for this multifaceted offense. Running back Aaron Ball (563 yards rushing, five TDs) trails Whitney and Szczur on the team in rushing, but is the Wildcats' top pure running back.
Wide receiver Brandyn Harvey (47 catches, 12.9 average, five TDs) stands out in Villanova's receiving corps and is capable of stretching the passing game with his size, speed and route-running ability.
Villanova's defense ranks 36th in FCS, and has given up 12 points or less in the past four-of-five games.
The unit features Buchanan Award candidate Tim Kukucka (51 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss) at defensive end, linebackers Osayi Osunde (71 tackles, seven tackles for loss) and Terence Thomas (88 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss), safeties John Dempsey (53 tackles, four pass breakups, four forced fumbles) and Ross Ventrone (56 tackles, five pass breakups) and cornerback James Pitts (eight pass breakups, four interceptions).
Both teams can score, but Holy Cross is likely to have a harder time containing Villanova.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Villanova 31, Holy Cross 21.
11/27 12:34:24 ET