I released the preview for the game the other day but I thought that since this is a playoff game, I'd dive a little deeper in and give you a position by position breakdown to see who has the upper hand. Looking at the stats only, both Villanova and UNH are very evenly matched, which is why i felt it was worth it to go down the line and do it position by position to see who has the advantage.
Quarterback- Villanova: This is a fairly obvious choice for me as Chris Whitney has been absolutely sensational so far this season, both throwing the ball and running with it. That's not to say that New Hampshire Quarterback RJ Toman is not dangerous, he can be very dangerous.. he's just a much more streaky player than Whitney is.
Running Back- Push/Villanova: Before the season started I would have told you hands down that this was in favor of Villanova, but Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro have been just good this year as opposed to last year when they were great. UNH has two good running backs this year in Chad Kackert and Sean Jellison. Villanova is generally good at stopping the run so it will be interesting to see what New Hampshire's two pronged running attack will do this week. Babbaro did not play in the first game due to turf toe, but he should be ready to go out and prove what UNH didn't have to deal with the last game.
Wide Receiver- Villanova: Villanova wins this matchup running away as the Combination of Brandyn Harvey, Matt Szczur, Dorian Wells, Norman White and Mikey Reynolds may be the best receiving corps in the nation. UNH's receivers are good, but they're nothing to really brag about.
Tight End- UNH: New Hampshire Tight End Scott Sicko is worth Bragging about though. This category was far and away the easiest to pick because Sicko is an absolute stud, he blocks well and catches passes like a wide receiver. The best receiving threat on UNH, Sick torched Villanova in the last meeting with a few long plays up the middle for touchdowns. As for Villanova, Tight End may be the weakest position on the team. Converted Defensive End Chris Farmer has done a servicable job at Tight End (mostly blocking) but he's not nearly the threat that Scott Sicko is in the Passing Game.
Offensive Line- Villanova: Even without starting Right Tackle Chidozie Ekweozor, Villanova still gets the advantage on this one. The reason I give the advantage to Villanova is that they have proven all season that they are a force in the run blocking department (even in the absence of Chidozie.) Expect to see a lot of runs by The 'Cats to the Side of Stud Junior Left Tackle Ben Ijalana and his counterpart (and roommate) Left Guard Brant Clouser along with Center Brian Brannigan and Right Guard/Tackle Jon Bugli. With those four along with either Freshman Guard/Center Dan Shirey or Freshman Tackle Josh Bucci (who may get his redshirt pulled), you'd be hard pressed to find a better Offensive Line in the nation. UNH's O-Line on the other hand is an Achilles Heel for the team, but apparently they have turned a corner.
Defensive Line- UNH (If Healthy): While Villanova probably has the best overall Defensive Lineman in this game in Senior Defensive End Tim Kukucka, UNH's D-Line in totality is better. D-Tackle Jordan Long is expected to be back this game from a suspension and If fellow D-Tackle Steve Young (no relation) is healthy, UNH could be very difficult to run up the gut against. Villanova's D-Line with the exception of Kukucka has been good in the run game but lacking in the Pass rush department, as the D-Lineman with the second most sacks (DE Mario Johnson 1.5 sacks all in one game) is the D-Lineman who has taken the least snaps.
Linebackers- Villanova: I am convinced that the combination of Osayi Osunde, Terence Thomas and Marquis Kirkland is the best linebacking corps in the nation. If you would like to try to convince me otherwise, go right ahead. Devon Jackson and Sean Ware from UNH are good players but it's hard for me to justify putting them ahead of Villanova's guys especially when the first linebacker off the bench for Villanova, Jacob Wade has put up some good numbers of his own playing in sub packages (3 picks, second on the team.) I'm placing Villanova a little bit higher for both quality and depth especially when the biggest playmaker on the Villanova linebacking corps this season (Thomas) has been better than the preseason Buck Buchanan Award Nominee (Osunde.)
Secondary- Push/UNH: Villanova's average secondary player is probably better than UNH's but the Other Cats have the best defensive back on either team in Cornerback (and Ridley alum) Dino Vasso. If Vasso wasn't vigorously pursued by Villanova coaches, that is a gross oversight on their part because he went to school right under our their noses. He's good in coverage and a very sound tackler which makes him dangerous. Luckily, Villanova has a good secondary as well led by Senior Free Safety Ross Ventrone. The breakout star in the defensive backfield for Villanova this year has been Sophomore Corner James Pitts who leads the team in both interceptions (four) and pass breakups (eight.) Pitts has tremendous ballskills and leaping ability and is a threat to take the ball back to the house if he picks it off. The reason I give a slight tilt to UNH is the fact that they lead the CAA in interceptions and pass efficiency defense, but it doesn't give them enough of an edge in my opinion to offset the run support proficiency of guys like Ventrone, John Dempsey and Fred Maldonado.
Special Teams- Push/Villanova: The only reason that this has a slight tilt toward Villanova is Matt Szczur. If he makes a couple gamebreaking kickoff returns (if UNH chooses to kick it to him) the game could slide in Villanova's favor. All other facets of special teams were a push with a tilt toward UNH, but having the CAA Special Teams Player of the Year means a lot.
Intangibles- Villanova: I'll give you a dollar if you can find a better homefield advantage in the last 3 and a half seasons than Villanova Stadium. In their last 18 home games, The 'Cats are an amazing 17-1 with the only loss coming against then number one ranked James Madison on a last second hail mary (fuck you and your children's children Rodney Landers.) The Villanova players will also be able to sleep in their own beds the night before the game and not depart from their normal routine. Another plus is that they won't have any sort of Jet Lag, I'm not sure UNH could say the same (UNH had to travel to Louisiana and back last week.)
If You Actually read this, thanks for your time because it took me way too much to write, but what can I say.. I'm excited!
Kickoff is at 3:30, student tickets are 5 dollars if you buy them in advance but 10 dollars if you wait until game day.