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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 14 Villanova at No. 1 James Madison

The Dukes look to deliver a big win on GameDay

NCAA Football: D1 Football Championship Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, October 14, 2017, 3:30 p.m. ET

Location: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Where To Watch: CSLC, MASN

Betting Odds: James Madison -15.5, O/U 43.5

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by

The James Madison Dukes have been unbeatable under Mike Houston. Houston is 19-1 midway through his second season at James Madison, with the line loss coming at the hands of North Carolina last year. The Dukes have been the best team in the FCS so far this season and look destined to face North Dakota State in a rematch of last year’s thrilling semifinal.

Things have not gone the way Mark Ferrante wanted in his first season as head coach of the Villanova Wildcats. The long-time assistant to Andy Talley was a natural pick to take over when Talley retired at the end of 2016, but he has faced some challenges in his first year in the big chair.

Reasons to Like James Madison

The Dukes are one of the best FCS teams we have seen in recent memory. This team could knock off a few dozen FBS teams and wiped the floor with East Carolina when the two met at the start of the season.

The run game is phenomenal. James Madison is averaging six yards per carry this season and has been able to post big yards against almost every opponent. Marcus Marshall and Trai Sharp are solid running backs, and Marshall was one of the go-to guys on Georgia Tech last year.

Houston’s defense is great too. The Dukes are allowing just 3.6 yards per play and have a very stout front seven that makes running the ball tough for opposing teams.

Reasons Not to Like James Madison

It feels nitpicky to try to point out small flaws in a team that’s so dominant, but there are a couple areas of concern for the Dukes.

Quarterback Bryan Schor has been a little interception prone this season. He threw six picks all of last year, and has already thrown five this year. On just 123 passes that’s a noticeably high percentage of interceptions. Additionally, his yards per attempt numbers are down significantly from last year.

Reasons to Like Villanova

The Wildcats have one of the stingiest run defenses in the country. Villanova is allowing just 1.8 yards per carry thanks to some awesome play from its big boys up front. No one has found any sort of success running on Nova yet this season.

This defense has been good at forcing turnovers too. Villanova has turned opponents over 14 times in six games this season, and might be able to get a defensive or special teams touchdown against a James Madison team that has already allowed three this year.

Reasons Not to Like Villanova

Backup quarterback Jack Schetelich has really struggled in place of star quarterback Zach Bednarczyk. Schetelich is just 8-25 for 120 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in three games of action this season. He isn’t mobile either, having been sacked six times on the year. That’s not a good sign when preparing to face a defense this good.

The Wildcats don’t have a great pass defense either. Its numbers aren’t half-bad, but it hasn’t played many teams with decent quarterbacks either. Both Lehigh and Temple had a decent amount of success on this secondary, and Schor might be able to put up solid numbers too.


If Bednarczyk was healthy, I’d really like Villanova getting double digits, but Schetelich has not been good and it’s hard to justify backing him. The Wildcats defense will keep them in the game for a while, but James Madison will slowly grind them down after too many three and outs from Nova’s offense.

Final Score: James Madison 27, Villanova 10