Villanova Wildcats (6-4) vs. #12 James Madison (7-2)
When: Saturday, November 21, 2015, 12:00 p.m.
Where: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA
James Madison’s Previous Season Record: 9-4
Key Players for James Madison: #17 Brian Schor (6-2, 213) So., QB; #32 Khalid Abdullah (5-10, 206) Jr., RB; #25 Cardon Jones (5-10, 180) Jr., RB; #11 Brandon Ravenel (6-0, 190) Jr., WR; #93 Andrew Ankrah (6-3, 215) Jr., DE; #14 Taylor Reynolds (6-1, 190) Jr., CB
Scouting Report: If you thought the Richmond game was tough (and it was), then you have another thing coming. Villanova, after playing the toughest game it had this season, is about to play a James Madison team that is even better than the tenacious Richmond team they played last week.
The Dukes have the best offense in the FCS. They lead the FCS with an insane 45.5 points per game, 572.4 offensive yards per game, and even sport a 56.2% third down completion rate. There’s a lot that this team does right on offense, and its thanks to their plethora of offensive talents.
The Dukes’ running attack is a two-headed demon. Runningbacks Khalid Abdullah and Cardon Johnson are nearly neck and neck statistically: Abdullah has 831 yards off of 170 carries, and eight touchdowns, while Johnson has 967 yards off of 140 carries for 10 touchdowns. Both are juggernauts that could carry a team on their own. Both are highly explosive with great athleticism, and both are very hard to bring down. The fact that they are the runningback tandem means that Villanova will have no break in the run game. James Madison will always be able to attack on the ground, regardless of who is in at runningback.
At quarterback, the team is a bit thin. Quarterback Brian Schor has replaced Vad Lee, and has played okay for the team. By and large though, Schor is not a threat (535 yards passing off of 70 attempts, with 43 completions and three touchdowns, in six games played), and will serve as a game manager. The passing game will be subservient to the run game.
The Dukes have a lot of good wide receivers, but no stand out threats, save for Brandon Ravenel. Ravenel currently leads the team in receiving yards (595), and receptions (47), and is third on the team in receiving touchdowns (three). He is a solid wide-receiver talent in an excellent receiving core; this team has seven players with two or more receiving touchdowns. Look for Ravenel to be the best on the field at wide-out, but don’t be shocked when Schor distributes the ball.
Defensively, two players stand out for this team. Defensive end Andrew Ankrah is an animal at his position, tied for seventh in the FCS with sacks (9.5). He also leads his team in tackles-for-loss (10). Ankrah is an undersized behemoth of a player who has been heavily praised by James Madison coaches. He will be a handful for the offensive line Saturday, as he is a very disruptive run stuffer; he is also, arguably, the best pass rusher in the CAA.
In the secondary, cornerback Taylor Reynolds has also been having a solid season. He leads his team in interceptions (three) and leads his team in pass-breakups (13) by a huge margin. Reynolds is also a big (6-1) and physical corner who will probably be playing star ‘Nova wide out Kevin Gulyas all day. He is a ball-hawk that ‘Nova quarterback Zach Bednarczyk will have to careful against in the air attack.
Outlook: Villanova is the first ranked defense in the CAA, and tenth in the FCS. Their performance against the Spiders last week was a riveting one, and I think that they will repeat an outstanding defensive effort against the best offense in the country. This game will be a marquee match-up of the best offense and defense in the CAA.
Expect Bednarczyk to shoulder the load in this game as he did against Richmond. Against a soft secondary, I expect him to have a good day passing. He must do his best to throw the ball quickly, especially against Andrew Ankrah on the Dukes’ defensive line. Villanova must also mix the run game in as they have all season, and keep this team honest.
All in all, I expect a hard-fought game of emotion. The game is James Madison’s senior night, and Villanova’s chance to get into the play-offs. That being said, I expect Villanova to claw its way to victory, with the win being sealed by a Gerard Smith field-goal.
Prediction: Villanova 24, James Madison 21