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FCS Preview: Villanova at No. 13 Colgate

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The Raiders are looking to get off to a strong start

NCAA Football: Colgate at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, August 24, 2019, 12 p.m. ET

Location: Andy Kerr Stadium, Hamilton, New York

How To Watch: CBS Sports

Betting Odds: Colgate -4.5, O/U 34.5

The Colgate Raiders had the best statistical defense in the country last season. Colgate allowed just 237.7 YPG and 9.3 PPG, but if you take out games against three opponents, those numbers are even more absurd. This defense allowed just 29 points in its first nine games last season, and the bulk of the points the Raiders conceded came in games against an 11-2 Army team that almost beat Oklahoma and in the playoffs against the last two FCS national champions (North Dakota State and James Madison).

Last season was one to forget for Villanova. For the second straight year, injuries decimated the Wildcats, and star quarterback Zach Bednarczyk missed an extended period of time. The proud program has now finished 5-6 in back-to-back seasons, and the offense might struggle even more in 2019 now that Bednarczyk has graduated.

Reasons to Like Colgate

The Raiders will once again have one of the best defenses in the FCS. Defensive end Nick Wheeler is a First Team Preseason All-American, and he wreaked havoc on offensive lines last season, leading the team with nine sacks. He was named the Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year back in July, and you’re likely going to hear his name a lot on Saturday.

Linebacker Nick Ioanilli and defensive back Abu Daramy-Swaray are the leaders of their units, and they were named to the Patriot League Preseason All-Conference teams too.

Quarterback Grant Breneman was named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year earlier this summer, and he provides continuity for the Raiders at quarterback. This team likes to keep it on the ground as much as possible though. He averaged just 20.4 passing attempts per game in 2018.

Reasons Not to Like Colgate

The Raiders lost a ton of talent from last year’s team. A whopping 10 all-conference selections and 25 seniors are gone, and it’s going to be difficult to replace a lot of that production.

Most of the starters from last year’s record-setting defense is gone, including the top three tacklers. The secondary is a real concern, though that shouldn’t be a worry against Villanova.

Colgate may not have the same success it did running the ball last year either. Alex Mathews is the new No. 1 RB, but he averaged just 3.3 yards per carry in 2018.

Reasons to Like Villanova

The Wildcats have a great secondary, headlined by cornerback Jaquan Amos. He was instrumental in Villanova’s 19-17 upset win over Temple to start last season, and he is flanked by 2018 CAA Defensive Freshman of the Year Christian Benford. Those two will make it tough to throw on the Wildcats this season.

Linebacker Jack Wiley led Villanova with 9.5 tackles for loss last season, and he earned CAA Preseason All-Conference Honorable Mention consideration.

Reasons Not to Like Villanova

This program has fallen precipitously under head coach Mark Ferrante. He shook things up this offseason by hiring new coordinators on both sides of the ball, but installing two new systems while bringing back the fewest returning starters in the conference is not a recipe for success.

The Wildcats’ offense is likely going to be abysmal once again. Bednarczyk was one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS when he was healthy, but now that he has moved on this position could be a mess.

Jack Schetelich, Qadir Ismail, and Dan Smith were in a three-way quarterback battle in the spring and summer, and none of the three were able to establish themselves through the summer. Schetelich has the most experience, but he has completed just 43.6 percent of his passes over two seasons and has five touchdowns against eight interceptions through the air. Ismail posted even worse numbers in limited action, while Smith is a transfer from Campbell University.

Villanova was unable to place any players on the Preseason All-CAA First Team and there are questions at every level except the secondary.

Prediction

The first college football game of the season is going to be a defensive slugfest. However, while Colgate’s offense will be able to move the ball somewhat, I don’t believe Villanova will have any sort of real success on offense. The betting odds in this game have already moved from Colgate -2.5 to Colgate -4.5, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this line move north of 7 by kickoff.

Final Score: Colgate 24, Villanova 6