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Villanova Football vs. JMU Preview: ‘Cats battle Dukes for top of the CAA

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With both team’s winning last weekend, this showdown becomes the key CAA match-up for the penultimate week.

NCAA Football: James Madison at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova returns home from Maine with an imperative to defend their home turf on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats have just one loss on their conference record and can set-up to take a share of the league title by knocking off the James Madison Dukes (8-1, 6-0). Getting that 8th win ahead of their season-ending rivalry game at Delaware would also be a big relief for a team hoping to extend head coach Andy Talley’s final season with a postseason run.

The Dukes, undefeated so far in the CAA, are coming into the game after a high-scoring 47-43 victory on the road at Richmond. They handed the Spiders their second conference loss in the offensive shoot-out.

The Wildcats and Dukes will kick-off at 1:00pm on Saturday. Here’s three things you should know about the Dukes.

JMU is averaging over 49 points per game

This is a no-joke offense from the Dukes, who have been steamrolling their way through some tough opponents this season. They have the league’s top rusher in tailback Khalid Abdullah, and also feature Cardon Johnson, who ranks fifth in the league for rushing yards per game.On top of a power running game, JMU also has the most efficient passer in the league in Bryan Schor. He’s completing over 72% of his passes on the season and averages over 213 yards per game.

With that run/pass combo, this offense is a very difficult one for a team to prepare for. Villanova’s defense will need to be dynamic in its reads to try and slow this JMU team down; and while the ‘Cats have been a very good defensive unit, it may be impossible to keep JMU out of the endzone.

The Defense though...

Well, they gave up 43 points to Richmond, so you might guess that their defense isn’t rated quite as high as the offense. Villanova currently possesses the top scoring defense in the CAA, while James Madison sits at number-9. The Dukes have averaged 26.3 points-allowed per game.

While that number may seem high, it is important to remember that their offense is scoring nearly twice that amount on average, so 26 points isn’t much for them to worry about. They aren’t scoring super quickly either -- the Dukes’ time of possession is fourth in the league at 31:16 per game (Villanova is second at 32:29).

Dukes Discipline

James Madison is the most penalized team in the CAA so far. They have had 58 flags thrown against them this season, costing them 548 yards. Villanova isn’t too far off with 57 flags thrown, but the ‘Cats mistakes haven’t been as punitive -- costing just 468 yards (52 per game). JMU’s penalties are pushing them back over 60 yards every week.

That works out to about nine and a half yards per flag for JMU.

Playing a disciplined game against the Dukes and cutting down on the six-plus flags per game that the Wildcats have accrued this season would go a long way toward giving Talley’s team an advantage in field position. If they play to their averages though, the ‘Cats will still have a slight advantage, but maybe not enough to overcome a powerhouse JMU offense.