Since Villanova won the National Championship in 2009, the team has been on a yo-yo of sorts. A good year in 2010 (National Semifinalists). A historically dismal year in 2011 (2-9). A rebound year in 2012 (8-4). A dissapointing followup in 2013 (6-5). A sign of things to come in 2014 (11-3)? An injury-ridden disappointment in 2015 (6-5).
If this trend continues, things must surely be pointing towards a good showing in 2016. The ‘Cats return about half of their starters, andthe defense appears loaded. If the offense can push it forward, we could be looking at a return to the playoffs. Hell, the schedule even sets up for it reasonably well.
Let’s break it down and talk about expectations for the coming season.
Don’t get hurt and get home safe (at Pitt)
Unlike previous seasons when the ‘Cats looked a good bet for pulling the FCS-FBS upset against Temple (before they were good), Syracuse (still maybe bad) and UConn (LOL), this is probably an L. Under Pat Narduzzi Pitt was secretly decent in 2015 and there’s not much reason to expect that to change. Then there’s whole James Connor beating cancer & playing again thing. He might not break Tony Dorsett’s rushing record but...it’s gonna be emotionally charged.
Should be favored in every game? (vs. Lehigh, vs. Towson, at Lafayette, at Elon, vs. Rhode Island)
Even if they’re limping a bit after seeing the Panthers, the next five games are all extremely winnable. They get two Patriot League teams, neither of which are expected to contend for a conference title. Elon and Rhode Island have been at the ass-end of the CAA since the Phoenix joined in 2014 and since the beginning of time in Rhody’s case.
The wildcard game is Towson. The two teams are pretty evenly matched - if the ‘Cats can avoid tripping over themselves (two pick-sixes last year) and stop Darius Victor (did it well last year), they should win that game. A 5-1 start isn’t out of the question.
The champs are here (at Richmond)
The Spiders were excellent last year - Villanova did beat them on some Zach Bednarczyk heroics - and they’ll be good again this year. And they’ll want revenge. The preseason pick for CAA champions are beatable, but let’s chalk it up as an L and be realists for a bit.
A quick reprieve (vs. Albany)
Another resident in the cellar of the CAA. No need to overthink it with the game at home.
The gauntlet (at Maine, vs. James Madison, at Delaware)
Not exactly the easiest finish to a season. Maine is never an easy trip, even if the Black Bears are expected to be down in 2016. James Madison is replacing a coach, but they have plenty of talent coming back. Unless things never get going, they should be contending for a conference title. And then there’s Delaware - throw those records out the window (and also, they’ll be decent). Getting 2 out of 3 should be the expectation - winning all three would be gravy.
Looking it over, I think 8-3 is a reasonable call for this season given the roster that’s coming back, the schedule (avoiding New Hampshire + William & Mary is a home run), and the emotional impact of Andy Talley’s final season. 7-4 wouldn’t be the end of the world, but that’s betting a playoff berth on how highly the selection committee thinks of the CAA.
Pitt is almost certainly a loss, but if the ‘Cats can win the next five they are in a great position to get momentum and bring home a playoff berth. That’s the goal, and then you can hit reset and start the second season in late November.