With less than two weeks until the beginning of the 2016 season, the Villanova Wildcats are ready to get back to the FCS Playoffs. Andy Talley has announced that he will retire at the end of 2016, and the Wildcats want to end his era with a win. Talley does not want to make a farewell tour of his last year but wants to end his legacy with a good note. Villanova has been riddled with inconsistency as of lately. They have alternated between FCS playoff berths and mediocre seasons over the last six years. The Wildcats will start 2016 ranked 22nd in the FCS. Here is the Villanova Wildcats schedule prediction. from Last Word On Sports.
Villanova Wildcats Schedule Prediction: Part I
Week 1: at Pittsburgh
Villanova will once again start their season on the road against a favored FBS opponent. The Wildcats have lost the last six openers. Despite being heavy favorites this year, the Pittsburgh Panthers were vulnerable last year against Youngstown State in a 45-37 win. Talley could start his last year off with a bang if the Wildcats can upset the Panthers.
X-Factor: James Connor
This off-season, all eyes have been on James Connor. Last December, Connor was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He remained with the team and continued to go to spring workouts. Three months ago, he was declared cancer-free and has returned to practice. In 2014, Connor ran for over 1,700 yards and is looking to have another explosive season this year. Villanova allowed 137.7 rushing yards per game last year and did not have to face an elite rusher like Connor. If he does what’s expected from him this season, Villanova will be in trouble.
The Wildcats will have a rough time with this game. James Connor will have a chip on his shoulder and will likely run all over the Villanova defense. Expect him to have over 150 rushing yards and for Villanova to lose 42-10.
Week 2: Lehigh
Lehigh had a bounce back season last year after an unimpressive 2014 year. The Mountain Hawks were 6-5 last season with an 0-2 record against Top 25 teams. Both teams will have several returning starters from last season in what should be an interesting game. Both teams would like to use this game to prove their worth in the FCS playoffs at the end of the season.
X-Factor: Zach Bednarczyk
In a season full of mediocrity, Zach Bednarczyk was one of the highlights. Bednarczyk led the team in rushing yards with 515 yards and 5 touchdowns and in passing with 1,396 yards and 10 touchdowns. In his sophomore year, Bednarczyk will look to really solidify himself as a dual-threat quarterback. Lehigh’s pass defense was notoriously bad last season, giving up 250 passing yards per game, ranking them 106th of 123 teams. The Mountain Hawk’s rush defense did not rank much better, giving up 201.4 rushing yards per game, ranking them 96th of 123 teams. This game will be the perfect opportunity for Bednarczyk to prove just how good he is.
After a poor performance against Pittsburgh, Villanova should be able to get back on track against Lehigh. The Wildcats should win this game fairly easily by a score of 24-10.
Week 3: Towson
The Towson Tigers are coming off a season with a lot of positives but also some negatives. The Tigers were able to defeat a ranked Villanova last season but lost a close game to ECU and two others against Top 10 FCS teams. The story of last years game was heartbreaking for Wildcat fans. Villanova outplayed Towson in almost every category. But a late fourth quarter pick by Romell Haley would cost the Wildcats the game in a 28-21 score. Villanova looks to get revenge this year and may very well do so.
X-Factor: Morgan Mahalak
Senior Connor Frazier led the assault on Villanova last year with 195 of Towson’s 292 yards on the day. Red-shirt sophomore, Morgan Mahalak will take over the offense this year after transferring from the Oregon Ducks. The former four-star recruit was expected by some to replace Marcus Mariota when he left for the NFL Draft. Mahalak excelled from passing from the pocket and with his legs in high school which will make him a dual-threat to Villanova. With Darius Victor returning as well, the Towson offense will certainly be better than last seasons.
This will likely be the first close game that Villanova plays. Expect this to be a back and forth game that may take extra time to decide. Villanova will likely fall short in a 34-28 loss.
Week 4: at Lafayette
After starting the year off 1-2, Villanova will need to win if they want to earn a berth in the FCS Playoffs. Lafayette is the perfect opponent to face in this situation. The Leopards went 1-10 last season and only beat an equally awful 1-10 Wagner team. The majority of Lafayette’s offense will be returning but not much more should be expected of them. Their offense ranked 101st of 123 and their defense ranked 107th of 123. A decisive win here would certainly help Villanova get back into the Top 25.
X-Factor: Villanova Offense
For the second time in three weeks, Villanova will face a very poor defense. To go along with Bednarczyk, Javon White should be able to help spread the ball around. As long as Villanova does not get cocky, they should have no problem scoring. Lafayette gave up at least 30 points in eight games. Lafayette also only scored over 10 points four times. Even on the road, Villanova should not have much of a problem with Lafayette.
While Villanova is not known for having a very explosive offense, the Wildcats should be able to get the edge on the Leopards defense. Villanova will win this game by a decisive score of 35-7.
Week 5: at Elon
Yet again, Villanova will face a very poor offense. Elon‘s offense ranks 112th of 123 while their defense ranks 63rd of 123. The Phoenix’s rushing game failed to get 100 rushing yards in 10 of their 11 games. Villanova will need yet another big win to keep in playoff contention.
X-Factor: Elon Rushing Defense
The Elon rush defense was miserably bad last season. They allowed at least 100 yards in 10 of their 11 games. Those 10 games included five 200+ yard games and a 400+ yard game. If Villanova cannot rush the ball, they do not deserve to be a playoff contender. Javon White should expect to get some additional touches for the second consecutive week. If the Wildcats use a game plan with several option plays to include Bednarczyk, this could be a game where Villanova rushes for over 250 yards.
Due to the excessive rushing of Villanova, the Wildcats should not be able to put up too many points. But the score will make it a lot closer than it was in a strong 28-3 win for Villanova.
Week 6: Rhode Island
Now at 3-2, Villanova will finally be getting back into the Top 25 conversation, Rhode Island will be the next opponent. When it seems like their opponent couldn’t get any worse, Villanova seems to find someone else. Rhode Island’s offense was pathetic in 2015, averaging less than four yards a play and ranking 119th of 123 in total yardage. As long as Villanova does not get cocky, this should be another easy win.
X-Factor: Villanova Defensive Line
While Villanova’s offense should not have a problem scoring, the Villanova defense will need to make sure they stop Rhode Island’s offense. The Rams offense is mediocre at best, but they still have some weapons. Harold Cooper still produced 158.2 all-purpose yards per game. Tanoh Kpassagnon was named a preseason FCS All-American and team captain after 6.5 sacks in 2015. He will likely get double teamed for the majority of the 2016 season which should allow for Austin Calitro to step up again. Calitro had 4.5 sacks in 2015. If Calitro and Kpassagnon can step up and produce, this should be an overall dominant win for Villanova.
Once again, Villanova is a heavy favorite. After a strong overall performance, the Wildcats will improve their record to 4-2 with a 31-3 win.