The ESPN College GameDay crew takes a curve in the road and heads to FCS territory in Week 7 for what could be a historic encounter between the Villanova Wildcats and James Madison Dukes.
The hosting Dukes are on the hunt for a CAA Football record with an 18th consecutive win, though making history in front of a friendly crowd won't be easy against the best defense from the FCS a year ago, not to mention an offense that has secured its four wins by a combined 108 points.
Those who follow know the locale isn't too surprsing—the crew last visited an FCS game in 2015, where James Madison and Richmond played to a 59-49 classic.
Villanova aims to ruin a historic bid and keep this a low-scoring affair, though whether the Wildcats can pull it off makes this one of the week's top games to watch.
College GameDay Week 7 Info
Date: Saturday, October 14
Time (ET): 9 a.m. to noon; game is at 3:30 p.m.
Location: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Live Stream: WatchESPN
College GameDay @CollegeGameDay
You ready, James Madison? You've got a 17-game win streak and we're headed back your way for @NovaFootball vs. No. 1 @JMUFootball! https://t.co/AahzJAr7Ip2017-10-8 17:09:06
Saturday's marquee matchup represents a tug of war most games simply can't.
Quarterback Bryan Schor has the Dukes offense rolling, to say the least. In fact, most words outright won't do the offensive potency justice, so let's just outline the final scores of each Dukes game this season:
- at East Carolina: 34-14
- vs. ETSU: 52-10
- vs. Norfolk State: 75-14
- vs. Maine: 28-10
- at Delaware: 20-10
It's hard for a team like Villanova to match that sort of track record when it comes to pregame hype—injuries only compound the issue.
The injury bug has nipped the Wildcats' offense in a big way, costing them quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, running back Matt Gudzak and wideout Changa Hodge, to name a few. New starting quarterback Jack Schetelich didn't exactly get the biggest ringing endorsement from his coaches in a 31-0 win against Maine, letting him attempt eight passes while running it 47 times.
Still, Villanova prides itself on defense, and the program's two losses this year fell directly on the shoulders of a sputtering offense. A 16-13 loss to Temple saw the team average less than a yard per carry on 30 attempts, and a 19-10 defeat at the hands of Albany saw the team average 2.3 yards over 26 rushes.
Injuries and unexpected losses don't have the Wildcats hurting for confidence entering Saturday, at least.
"It's still up to us who we want to be and where we want to go," Villanova defensive lineman Ricky Young said, according to Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "After Albany we looked at each other and said, 'It's not over.' We've still got things out there for us. Our goals haven't changed. We want to win a championship. This is a conference game. So there's obviously a lot of implications."
A team like James Madison doesn't find itself in a history-making position without knowing how dangerous Villanova can be, though, so the war of wills and contrasting styles might have enough juice to create another FCS classic for College GameDay.
This one will come down to whichever team can strike first and proceed to impose its will, influencing game flow and the eventual result.
Unfortunately for Villanova, this is going to be James Madison.
There are simply too many things working in the Dukes' favor. At home with historic momentum and an improving defense that has yet to permit 20 points, they shouldn't have any problems jumping out to an early lead and forcing the Wildcats into the uncomfortable position of asking a redshirt freshman shoved into the spotlight to lead a comeback.
This one won't get ugly, but look for James Madison to make history.
Prediction: James Madison 27, Villanova 20
Stats and information via ESPN.com unless otherwise specified.