Villanova versus James Madison. It’s a game that needs no introduction. Last time the Wildcats traveled to Harrisonburg, Virginia to play the Dukes, ESPN’s premier morning college football show, College Gameday, was on sight for the clash. This year, the game has CAA Championship and National Championship implications on the line. JMU and Villanova are the top two teams in the CAA, and they are nationally ranked 2nd and 5th, respectively. A win for the Wildcats would give them a stranglehold on the CAA, and would set them up nicely for a high seed in the FCS playoffs. A loss for ‘Nova would mean having an identical record with JMU, but the Dukes would leapfrog the Wildcats in the CAA standings on a tiebreaker.
Villanova enters the game with some offensive concerns, as they prepare to take on the number two rushing defense in the country without knowing if star running back Justin Covington will play.
“I don't have any update on Covington," head coach Mark Ferrante said to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I'm not overly optimistic, but we'll go through the proper protocol and let the doctors tell us what's going on there."
If Covington isn’t fit to play on Saturday, Nova will rely on the thunder-and-lightning freshman duo of DeeWil Bartee and T.D Ayo-Durojaiye to move the rock on the ground like they did last week when Covington went down in the second quarter.
If Villanova struggles to move the ball without Covington, the key to the game will be to slow down JMU’s high powered offense, which is averaging 41 points per game on the season. The Dukes, like the ‘Cats, prefer to pound the rock and have one of the premier rushing offenses in college football. Junior Linebacker Forrest Rhyne will be key for the Wildcats, who is fresh off a CAA Defensive Player of the Week award for his performance against William and Mary.
It will be tough sledding for the Wildcats this Saturday in Harrisonburg, but Villanova already has two top ten victories on the road this year. Tomorrow, the ‘Cats’ defense will look to silence a sold out Bridgeforth Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.