It’s the beginning of a new era in Philadelphia.
The Villanova Wildcats football program saw long-time head coach Andy Talley retire in the offseason. Talley had been the main man at ‘Nova for 32 seasons, but he was ready to move on to the next stage of his life.
It will be difficult to replace the coach who was the grandfather of the program in so many ways, but the Wildcats’ replacement has been with Talley for the last 30 years. Mark Ferrante will try to keep the ball rolling with the help of a phenomenal defense.
2016 Villanova Football Season In Review
It all started with the defense for the Wildcats last season. Villanova had the top unit in the FCS in terms of both total defense and scoring defense and was shutting down some of the best offenses in the country. No team at the FCS level scored more than 23 points against this unit all year.
Offensively, it was all about quarterback Zach Bednarczyk, who completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,158 yards and was able to pick up yards with his legs as well. He was the second-leading rusher on the Wildcats, but he averaged just 4.3 yards per rush.
The Wildcats had some issues with their kicking game last season. Gerard Smith was the place kicker for the team and had some trouble keeping it between the uprights. He missed four extra points and only went five for seven on field goal attempts.
Villanova beat all of the teams it should have on its schedule, but it couldn’t knock off the top teams in the country. The Wildcats lost by double digits to Pittsburgh, Richmond and James Madison during the regular season and suffered a tough defeat at the hands of South Dakota in the postseason.
2017 Villanova Football Season Preview
This defense should be one of the best in the nation once again. Rob Rolle is one of the best safeties in the FCS and a future NFL talent. He was tied for the national lead in interceptions in 2016 and will be the leader of a fearless unit.
It would be nice if Villanova could get some better performances from its offense to help out the defense though. In their four losses last season, the Wildcats scored seven points three times and were shut out once.
Bednarczyk is back, but he hasn’t been a consistent passer. He is more of a game manager than anything else. He doesn’t have any real weapons at wide receiver to throw the ball to either, leaving ‘Nova to lean heavily on the run game.
The ‘Cats were tied for 24th in the nation in rushing last season with an average of 206.3 yards per game. However, of all the teams that averaged at least 200 yards on the ground, the Wildcats were the second-least efficient. They picked up just 4.66 yards per carry, well behind the elite teams in the FCS.
2017 Villanova Football Schedule
September 2: Villanova at Lehigh
September 9: Villanova at Temple
September 16: Villanova vs. Lafayette
September 23: Villanova at Albany
September 30: Villanova at Towson
October 7: Villanova vs. Maine
October 14: Villanova at James Madison
October 28: Villanova vs. Elon
November 4: Villanova vs. Richmond
November 11: Villanova at Rhode Island
November 18: Villanova vs. Delaware
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
The Wildcats have a very tough September. They go on the road in four of their five games and have to play against a solid Temple club. The good news is that all of those road games are extremely manageable distances, so travel fatigue won’t be an issue.
The toughest matchup will be when ‘Nova has to play at James Madison. The Wildcats were able to stay close almost the entire way last year thanks to a fantastic defensive effort. If ‘Nova has any shot to win this game in 2017, it needs a better effort from Bednarczyk, who went 12-of-30 passing for 71 yards with four interceptions against the Dukes.
The best spot to play Villanova in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests will be on November 4 when it hosts Richmond. The Wildcats will essentially be coming off of a double bye, with only bottom-feeder Elon on the schedule in the three weeks leading up to it. Meanwhile, Richmond has challenging games against Delaware and Stony Brook and will have to play a road game at James Madison the week after this one.