The Wildcats are ranked 6th in the nation and the Delaware Blue Hens are in the second year of a rebuilding process. New coach Dave Brock took on the challenge of returning the team back to the top of the CAA. Despite having some talent left over from the KC Keeler years, the team has been inconsistent this season, never truly finding an identity.
The Wildcats are looking for a 10th win this season, and to lock up their place in the playoffs -- hopefully with a bye week and a home game to help ease their path to the quarterfinals. A loss might still see the 'Cats limping into the postseason, but that would surely require them to take their show on the road in the first round and thereafter.
Last season, the 'Cat missed the playoffs, but knocked off Delaware at PPL Park in Chester, PA. John Robertson passed for 252 yards and three touchdowns -- all in the final 8:01 minutes of the game. He also ran for 165 yards against the Blue Hens. This team is well aware of the type of player they will have to contend with when the 'Cats offense takes the field on Saturday.
Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley suffered a minor injury last week during the Hen's 43-14 dismantling at New Hampshire. He'll be playing this weekend regardless, and the senior enters the game ranked 5th in the CAA in passing yards per game (187.5), efficiency (126.0), touchdowns (15), and total offense (191.5).
Like many teams, however, Delaware looks to establish the run with Wes Hills and Jalen Randolph, before they start chucking the pigskin all over the field. They obviously pass better when defenses are kept honest by the threat of the run game, but Villanova's defense has been one of the best on the ground, this season.
The Blue Hens have been middle-of-the-pack this season, offensively and defensively. They average 21.2 points per contest and allow an average of 26.5 to their opponents -- no doubt skewed by last-week's blowout loss. They rank 9th against the run, an area where the Wildcats excel, and rank 9th out of 12 in total defense.
Even tough passing offenses aren't usually enough to get the better of the Wildcats. FCS opponents will tend to struggle trying to beat Robertson in a shootout. To win, Delaware will have to stifle the 'Cats offense and take control. That's a tough order, and thus-far only Richmond has managed to do it; narrowly defeating the 'Cats at home.
In order for Delaware to follow that lead, defensive linemen Blaine Woodson and Derrick Saulsberry will be looked upon to help provide pressure in the trenches. The Hens' linebacker corps, led by David Mackall will need to read Robertson well and switch between darting into the backfield and dropping to cover the short routes over the middle that the Wildcats have made their bread-and-butter this season.
The Wildcats enter the game as favorites at 9-2 while Delaware will be an underdog this season. The Hens have just one win in the last eight meetings of the two teams, though the game has often been a close one, going to overtime in 2010, and being decided by less-than-a-touchdown in 2006, 2007, and 2013.
As Andy Talley has said, this is a "very dangerous team," especially in late-November, during a hyped-up rivalry game and during their Senior Day. The 'Cats will, as usual, expect to have almost no margin for error in this game, even if it seems like they have it in the bag. Tides turn quickly in the Battle of the Blue.
The most boring thing about this rivalry is it's name.