The FBS vs. FCS games that end in 63-0 routs or add to a lopsided series history don’t resemble Temple-Villanova, which on Saturday renews in Philadelphia with the Mayor’s Cup on the line.
Temple has needed to win the last four meetings, including 16-13 a year ago, just to pull into a 16-16-2 series tie. Villanova won the prior two matchups in close fashion in 2003 and ’09.
The two programs, whose campuses are separated by about 15 miles, seek to usher in the 2018 season with a win. A good-sized crowd and likely a good game await.
Villanova at Temple
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 1 at Noon ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia)
Three Things to Watch
1. Villanova is Villanova again
Villanova was a top-10 FCS team entering the 2017 season, but soon after its early loss to Temple, a handful of key players suffered season-ending injuries. Quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, running back Matt Gudzak, tight end Ryan Bell, and All-America safety Rob Rolle are back as fifth-year seniors and redshirt junior wide receiver Changa Hodge returns as well. Add in the likes of leading rusher Aaron Forbes, junior linebacker Jeff Steeb and the younger players who received earlier playing time than expected, and ‘Nova’s lineup appears stacked this season.
2. Temple needs the offensive line to jell quickly
While winning four of its final five games last season, including the Gasparilla Bowl, Temple averaged nearly 32 points – up considerably from the fewer than 21 points per contest the Owls produced over their first eight. This season, there’s great experience in the skill positions, including quarterback Frank Nutile (4-2 as a starter), but the offensive line breaks in three new starters and has another front liner, left guard Jovahn Fair, returning from a shoulder injury which sidelined him for seven games. Standout center Matt Hennessy will want to keep everything organized until the line finds chemistry.
3. How fast will the secondaries answer the bell?
The fact only two touchdowns were scored in last year’s game (there were five field goals) hides the fact Villanova (Bednarczyk) and Temple passed for 382 and 270 yards, respectively. Both teams are replacing their two starting cornerbacks, so the newcomers will be under fire, especially with early-season heat perhaps taking a toll in the second half. One of the Temple corners is an FCS transfer, Rock Ya-Sin from Presbyterian. Villanova employs a 3-3-5 defensive alignment with three safeties, none more important than Rolle.
With both teams guided by second-year head coaches – Villanova’s Mark Ferrante and Temple’s Geoff Collins – the play should be more cohesive all season, and both are optimistic about vast improvement. The visiting Wildcats finished a mere 5-6 last season due to their many injuries and Temple rallied to its 7-6 finish.
As with any FBS-FCS matchup, Villanova has much more to gain and Temple much more to lose. With veteran running backs, both teams should be able to run the ball better than in last year’s matchup, and that will only set up passing lanes. While linebacker is a strength, Temple is replacing its starting defensive ends, so it will be hard to contain the mobile, left-handed Bednarczyk.
This should be an entertaining game, one in which the veteran Wildcats can hang close into the fourth quarter and have the chance to pull an upset.
Prediction: Villanova 24, Temple 21
— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.
(Top photo by Zamani Feelings, courtesy of owlsports.com)