Friday, December 11, 2009

What to Look For Tonight: Villanova-William & Mary Preview

Hopefully We Will See A lot of this From A Ball

Tonight, Villanova will play in their biggest football game during Andy Talley's 25 year tenure as head coach at the school.  The opponent, William & Mary is a familiar one to The 'Cats as the two teams face each other every season (Villanova beat The Tribe 28-17 earlier this season.)  W&M comes in boasting a stout defense and a solid offense so The 'Cats must play solid in all facets of the game if they want to come away with a win.
Here is my guide to the game:
  • Who Can Run The Ball? Both teams have particularly stout run defenses and solid running offenses.  Bill and Mary comes into the game with the nation's number one ranked run defense which could hurt run-heavy Villanova.  Villanova is an extremely difficult team to stop on the ground though as they average 237 yards a game running the ball.  In the last four games, The 'Cats have been averaging nearly 300 yards a game on the ground.  In the first game between these two teams, Villanova Running Backs Angelo Babbaro and Aaron Ball were both banged up yet Villanova was still able to have some success running the ball.  With both running backs healthy and Babbaro coming off the best game of his college career, Villanova should be in a better position to run the ball than they were in the first matchup between these two teams.  Early on in the game, try to observe who is winning the battle at the line of scrimmage as that is the ultimate key to the game in my opinion. 
  • Who Will Pass Protect? Both teams stop the run so there could be some long third down situations that force the quarterbacks to throw.  In order to throw however, the signal callers will need time to throw as both teams in this game are among the nation's best at harassing quarterbacks.  Defensive End Adrian Tracy, W&M's top pass rusher has lived in opposing backfields this season, he's very difficult to block and he had a big game against Villanova earlier in the season.  I expect Villanova to pass block better than they did in the last game against William and Mary as it seems they have turned a corner but I still expect W&M to make some plays in the Villanova backfield.  Villanova's pass rush is nothing to sleep on as End Tim Kukucka is coming off a monster game against UNH in which he had six tackles and two and a half sacks.  Neither team will be able to win this game if they can't protect the passer so it should be interesting to see who wins this battle.
  • Who Handles the Elements? Compared to last week, the conditions for this game will seem nice for The 'Cats as they played their game last week in a wet wintry hell.  The conditions will still not be great though as it should be well below freezing with heavy winds.  Wind and cold together make passing the ball a bitch as the ball gets very hard and slick when it's cold added to the fact that it's never easy to throw in the wind (ask Eli Manning.)   If the wind has an effect on the ball in the passing game, the team that performs better in the kicking game has a decided advantage as I don't expect either team to run the ball too easily.  Last week, Nick Yako had an incredible game kicking the ball even though it looked to be near impossible to get footing. 
  • What Quarterback Steps Up? This game is a matchup between the two best Quarterbacks in the CAA (as voted by the coaches.)  Villanova signal-caller Chris Whitney was voted to the first team and Tribe QB RJ Archer was named to the second team.  Both quarterbacks are very athletic (Archer is a former Wide Receiver) and can run with the football.  Whitney is a load to bring down and he is the Ultimate X-Factor in this game due to his running ability.  If Whitney is able to run the ball early, that will ultimately slow down the William & Mary pass rush and it will give Villanova an opportunity to throw some passes and throw the defense off balance.  Archer had a big game throwing the ball earlier in the season statistically, but he made some mistakes.  If Archer is able to replicate his early season performance without the turnovers, it will be very hard for Villanova to beat William and Mary. 
  • Who Gets in a Rhythm Early? Villanova has made a living in the first quarter of games this year.  In 13 games so far this season, The 'Cats have given up only 30 points in the first quarter while they have scored 135.  So on average, The 'Cats have been leading by more than eight points at the end of the first quarter.  William and Mary on the other hand has been struggling in the first quarter as of late as RJ Archer has found it difficult to get into a rhythm early.  If Villanova is in the lead by more than a touchdown after the first quarter, they will be in very good shape for the rest of the game. 
That's it for today, come to the game tonight.. It's at eight o'clock at Villanova Stadium.  Student Tickets will be 10 dollars at the door.  If you can't make it, the game will be televised on ESPN2.
Go 'Cats!

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