The Villanova football team is preparing to kick off its six-game spring season this March, after the rescheduling of the FCS postseason led most major conferences to cancel the fall season.
Villanova’s Colonial Athletic Association decided to split its 11 members into two divisions, with Villanova placed in the seven-team North division. Towson, which opted out of the spring season, will not compete. Each team in the North division will play each other once, while the four teams in the South division will play each other twice.
In the fall, Villanova was thought to be the biggest challenger in the conference to power house James Madison. However, with Changa Hodge, Paul Grattan and Todd Summers transferring in the fall and Jaquan Amos opting out of the spring season to transfer to Iowa State, the Wildcats are missing key leaders across the roster for the six-game slate. Nevertheless, with Daniel Smith as a frontrunner for best quarterback in the conference, combined with a consistent coaching staff, Villanova could still compete for the CAA’s playoff spot this spring.
Villanova will start the season on the road against Stony Brook, a team which finished 5-7 but upset the then-number five ranked Villanova, 36-35, at home last season. Stony Brook is a quality defensive team, but the growth of senior quarterback Tyquel Fields will make or break this team.
The Wildcats will then play two in a row at home against Rhode Island and New Hamp shire. Rhode Island went 0-8 in the CAA last season, and with brand new coordinators on both sides of the ball, it likely will still be near the bottom of the conference.
New Hampshire, on the other hand, is another team that beat Villanova last season. New Hampshire was on the tail end of Villanova’s three-game losing streak that took them from fifth in the country to 18th. New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell returns from a medical leave of absence to lead the team in his 21st season with them.
Villanova then returns to the road for two more games against Maine and Albany. Maine takes on the spring season led by second year head coach Nick Charlton, who had a disappointing 6-6 record in his first season. This was after the Black Bears won the CAA in 2018 and then head coach Joe Harasymiak left to join PJ Fleck’s staff at Minnesota. If Maine was the 2019 underperformer in the CAA, then Albany was definitely the surprising over performer. Predicted to finish last in the conference, this team ended the 2019 season ranked 18th, making the FCS Playoff with a 7-1 conference record. Led by lightning rod sophomore quarterback Greg Gattuso, the Great Danes could compete for the top record in the conference.
The Wildcats will close out the season with a Battle of the Blue game against rival Delaware, just as they do every season. Delaware has not beaten Villanova since 2011, the longest win streak in the history of the series. However, Delaware consistently puts forth a competitive team, and it is only two years removed from a playoff berth. This team could be a dark horse in the conference if quarterback Nolan Anderson shows any growth.
The team that finishes with the best conference record, regardless of division, will earn the CAA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Football Championship. If there is a tie, a tie-breaking procedure will be used to determine the bid-winner. After that, there are only five at-large bids, with the playoff being shrunk down to 16 teams. So, if Villanova finishes top of the North division and the tiebreaker goes to a team like James Madison, the WIldcats could still make it to the playoffs with an at-large bid and make a run for their first FCS championship since 2009.