Playing well against Syracuse and Fordham could be a great predictor of Villanova's ability to succeed this season -- or the results could be meaningless. Perhaps Syracuse is a mediocre or bad FBS team? What if Fordham was overrated heading into their trip to the Main Line? The answers won't be fully-clear for a few more weeks, but we can take a look at how Syracuse and Fordham fared against other teams for some insight.
Syracuse had a bye game last week, so their resume outside of Villanova is the easier one to parse. The Orange played at Central Michigan this afternoon, and the Chippewas came into the game with some serious momentum, having handled FCS Chattanooga in week one, and travelling to Big Ten Purdue to knock off the Boilermakers 38-17 a week ago. A fully-staffed Syracuse team, however, was no match for them.
The Orange steamrolled the Chippewas, 40-3, with quarterback Terrel Hunt doing most of the damage. Hunt was out of commission (due to an ejection) for all of the second half against Villanova after punching linebacker Dillon Lucas late in the first half. With him in the game, 'Cuse had an offensive blast-off in the second and third quarters, putting up 17 and 16, respectively.
It was the defense that scored 8 of those points, returning a fumble for one score in the second quarter and recording a safety in the third.
With Hunt in the game against Villanova, the Orange managed 10 points, one long rushing touchdown early in the contest, and a 38-yard field goal around half-way through the second quarter. While Syracuse would have been more dangerous with Hunt in the game, the Wildcats clearly were putting on a better show than the Chippewas managed -- and this is a good Chippewa team, based on their back-to-back wins to start the season.
Similarly, Fordham bounced back from their encounter with Villanova to win big today, 54-7 over the CAA's Rhode Island Rams. While Rhody isn't a CAA powerhouse, they also weren't picked to finish dead-last either. Rhody had a tough go of it in their season opener with a blow-out loss at FBS Marshall, but they should win a few games at some point this season.
Fordham, meanwhile, got their running game going again this week, with freshman runner Chase Edmonds going for 231 yards. Nebrich himself added most of his damage in the air, passing for 331 yards.
Syracuse also got their run defense going again, keeping the Chippewas to just 34 rushing yards, with nobody (obviously) breaking 100 yards. CMU had just 217 total yards of offense.
Villanova's performance against both teams was much more impressive than their other opponents have done. Both offense and defense performed well, against Syracuse, beating the CMU numbers against the same opposition. Fordham had trouble generating offense against Villanova, but was able to turn on the jets in both of their other contests.
Those facts bode particularly well for the Wildcats this season. Villanova is looking like one of the best teams in FCS football, and certainly one of the best in CAA play. They should make the playoffs, they should get seeded and win a home game or two, and they definitely are good enough to make a run -- perhaps all the way to Frisco. . .
. . . but lets not get too far ahead of ourselves.