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FCS Football Preview: James Madison vs. Villanova

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This Saturday is going to be a very eventful day in Harrisonburg, VA. The No. 1 James Madison Dukes will host conference rival, the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova is currently No. 14 in last week’s FCS Coaches Poll and is looking to end the Dukes’ unbeaten streak. This game is one of the biggest games this week in FCS Football. So big that College Gameday will be at the game. James Madison hosted College Gameday back in 2015, but hopes this year’s event has a more positive effect than the last time. The Dukes are the reigning FCS National Champions and off to a 5-0 start this season. They have been nothing short of dominant from the start of the season in a 34-14 win against FBS foe East Carolina.

James Madison College Gameday

College Gameday at JMU in 2015.

James Madison has been exceptional on offense. The Dukes are putting up 41 points a game and averaging 517 yards (4th FCS) of total offense. Their rushing attack has been the reason to their success. Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall have been stellar in an offense that is averaging 289 rushing yards per game. Sharp leads the team with 378 yards and averages 6-yards per carry. Marshall is close behind with 339 yards and 5.8-yards per carry. The duo also has combined for 5 rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Brian Schor has been somewhat solid in the passing game. Schor has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,031 yards and 12 touchdowns. He does have¬† 5 picks in as many games so he’ll have to limit forcing his throws against a Wildcat defense that is solid in pass coverage. The receivers for James Madison are more of possession receivers that keep drives alive instead of being a threat on big plays.

James Madison Dukes Football

Brian Schor, James Madison

For Villanova, things will be interesting on offense. They’re pretty banged up at the moment. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game due to injury against Towson and didn’t play against Maine. Running back Matt Gudzak and tight end Ryan Bell have been out as well. Jack Schetelich has won his first two starts in FCS football, but he has to perform flawless if Bednarczyk can’t go. In four games, Schetelich is completing just 32 percent of his passes for 120 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. That’s a big difference compared to Bednarczyk whom is completing 70 percent of his passes and no interceptions in 120 passing attempts this season. Aaron Forbes leads a Wildcat rushing attack that is averaging 153 yards per game. The Newburgh, NY native has 311 yards and averages 4.9 yards per carry. Forbes has to be the main contributor for Villanova if those three key starters on offense can’t play on Saturday. Receiver Taurus Phillips is a burner that has big-play potential. Phillips has 18 catches on the year for 286 yards and 3 touchdowns. His factor in the game also depends on who starts at quarterback.

Villanova Wildcats Football

Taurus Phillips, Villanova

James Madison has played just as well on defense as they have on offense. If not better. The Dukes are tied for third in FCS Football, giving up just 11.6 points per game. Their passing defense is fourth in the nation with 141 passing yards per game. They also rank second in QB efficiency¬† with a 76.19 rating. Linebacker Kyre Hawkins, leads the team with 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Cornerback Rashad Robinson leads the team with 3 picks while safety Jordan Brown has made several big plays this year. Brown has 2 interceptions and 2 sacks. He’s great at disguising the blitz which causes a lot of confusion on opposing offenses. Jimmy Moreland has been a shut-down corner for the Dukes recording 6 break-ups and 2 interceptions. Darrious Carter and Andres Ankrah anchor a defensive front that’s giving up 89.4 rushing yards per game.

Villanova ranks second in the FCS in rushing defense, giving up just 50-yards per game. The Wildcats have a great linebacker corps in Ed Shockley, Jeff Steeb, Drew Wiley, and Keeling Hunter. Steeb leads the team with 3 sacks and Hunter leads with 3 interceptions. The secondary is pretty stout as well. Freshman, Jaquan Amos set a school record last week with a 99-yard fumble recovery. Trey Johnson has 10 break-ups while Malik Reeves is another all-around player for this defense. Villanova has decent depth on defense and that will definitely benefit them against the rushing attack from the Dukes.

The biggest key to winning this game for either team depends on which offense can rush effectively and which defense can stop the run. James Madison does have a better passing game, but only if Bednarczyk is still out for Villanova. The Wildcats have to take the command away from the Dukes that they are well accustomed to. They need to score early and control the pace of the game. James Madison will need to establish the running game and open things up for Schor as the game progresses. The Dukes should give both Sharp and Marshall plenty of carries from the start. Injury statuses are unknown at this time, but a lot of Villanova’s fate will depend on which guys are still out and who will play. Game time is slated for Saturday at 3:30 pm est. College Gameday will begin their broadcast at 9 am est.


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