This Friday night at 8:00 p.m .ET, the Villanova Wildcats will travel to Cheney, Washington to take on the Eastern Washington Eagles in the semi-finals of the FCS Football playoffs. Roos Field, otherwise known as 'The Inferno', is the home of the Eagles. As seen in the picture above, it's an all-red surface, and coupled with the all-red home jerseys of EWU, it presents a difficult challenge for any visiting team.
Head Coach Beau Baldwin is well aware of the challenge that the visitors will present this weekend.
"They are going to be as advertised," said Eastern head coach Beau Baldwin. "They are a tremendous football team -- they are national champs and have proven they are one of the top teams again this year. It just keeps getting tougher. We've played a couple of really tough opponents up to this point. Each week it gets to be a tougher battle, and I expect the stakes to just keep rising when we face a team like Villanova.
The Wildcats will come in confident after their 42-24 victory over the #1-seed Applachian St. Mountaineers last weekend, and although All-American RB Taiwan Jones has been ruled out for this weekend's matchup with a fractured foot, they cannot underestimate a team that is currently on a 9-game winning streak and finished the year ranked #1 in the Top 25. Eastern Washington was nearly eliminated last weekend at home by North Dakota State, but they rallied late to force overtime and pulled out the win, 38-31.
More on this matchup after The Jump.
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Roos Field in Cheney, WA
TV: ESPN2 and ESPN3
Radio: ESPN 700 AM in Spokane, WA & www.espnnorthwest.com
The View From Vegas:
Villanova are 9.5 favorites. The Over/Under is 55. Villanova are -380 on the money line. Eastern Washington are +330 on the money line.
The Nova Blog's Take:
One quick look at the Eagles' schedule this season indicates an explosive offense, with the team registering 30+ points in 8 out of their 11 games this season. This will be a familiar challenge to a phenomenal Villanova defense, who last weekend did well to contain the highly-publicized Appalachian State offense to just 24 points.
With the loss of Taiwan Jones, Eastern Washington will likely take to the air, and the 'Nova D will need to be prepared to limit QB Bo Levi Mitchell. How Mitchell responds may be the biggest question, as he will not have the luxury of Jones in the backfield with him. Despite Jones prolific year, Mitchell has been very good himself passing the ball, topping 250 yards passing 5 times this year.
On offense, Villanova continues to be boosted by the return of Matt Szczur to the fold. The do-it-all star scored 5 touchdowns last weekend, and his presence opens up so much more for the rest of the offense. Players such as Chris Whitney, Aaron Ball and Norman White have a bit of pressure relieved and are finding more space to operate as a result.
The Eastern defense hasn't been as electric as their offense this season, so in theory anyways, Villanova should be able to score some.
With the loss of Taiwan Jones, Villanova will probably be considered the favorites for this game. But with all the travel they've been accumulating, plus what is sure to be an intimidating atmosphere, they can't rest on their laurels if they hope for a shot to retain the title of National Champions.