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Villanova Football game preview: Three things to watch vs. Temple

A rivalry is renewed to start the 2018 college football season.

Villanova v Temple Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The stage is set at Lincoln Financial Field for the newest edition of the Mayor’s Cup. Villanova and Temple will renew their rivalry and meet for the 35th time ever on the gridiron.

The series is deadlocked at 16-16-2, since the Owls evened things up with a close 16-13 win over the ‘Cats last year. It was the first time the two teams played each other since the rivalry game was put on hold after 2012.

Last season, Temple finished 7-6—a step back from its recent surge of back-to-back 10-win seasons. It was head coach Geoff Collins first year with the Owls. He and his players are optimistic that they can build on last year and will begin their journey with Villanova.

As for Villanova, it concluded last season with a 5-6 record. The Wildcats are looking for their first victory over the Owls since 2009, when they stunned Temple under the lights of the Linc.

Here are three things to watch for, entering Saturday’s game. Kickoff is slated for 12 p.m.

Beating the Odds?

The official start of the college football season brings the excitement back to the gridiron. While the long wait is over—although the pros have to wait just a tad more—the early weeks of the NCAA season features a number of FCS vs. FBS matchups. While the much-bigger FBS teams are often the favorites in these games, it’s always a big deal when a FCS team is able to elevate itself to pull off the victory. Since Villanova was reborn as a Division I-AA (now known as FCS) football program, the Wildcats have been able to topple a FBS team three times throughout their history. In 2002, Villanova beat Rutgers for its first-ever FBS win. Then, the ‘Cats beat city rival Temple in 2003 and 2009. Aside from that, the Wildcats are 3-19 against FBS competition. However, Villanova has come really close in recent years. In three of the last four seasons, the Wildcats lost to their FBS opponent by five or fewer points. In the most recent matchup, the Owls won, 16-13, thanks to a last-second field goal by Aaron Boumerhi. Temple seems to be confident that it will be much better this time around. As for the Wildcats, they are fully healthy again and hungry for revenge after coming up short. Can this be the year Villanova pulls off another stunner?

Zach’s Back

Villanova fifth-year senior Zach Bednarczyk was playing very well before he went down midway through the fifth game of the 2017 season. Up until that point, he had completed just over 70 percent of his passes, threw for 1,068 yards and six touchdowns—without any interceptions. Bednarczyk was only one of many injuries that hampered the Wildcats last season, but his absence was especially felt in the passing game. Villanova finished 10th out of 12 teams in the CAA in terms of passing yards and passing touchdowns. After Bednarczyk went down, the Wildcats only managed to have 614 yards through the air for the next six and a half games. With Bednarczyk and key members of the offense back in action, the Wildcats need to get themselves into a groove offensively. Villanova outperformed Temple in nearly every team statistic in their game last season, but couldn’t finish off drives. The Wildcats can’t afford to do the same this year. Villanova was slow to go offensively in the first half, but exploded in the second half—where it scored all of its 13 points and account for a bulk of its 402 total offensive yards. With a replenished offense, the Wildcats are looking to do some damage.

Forward Momentum

Compared to the two seasons before last year, the 2017 season was a step back from the 10-win seasons. However, the way that the Owls were able to finish the year gives them a lot of optimism moving forward. Temple ended the year 7-6, and along the way, lost original starting quarterback Logan Marchi to a season-ending injury. In his place, Frank Nutile stepped in at signal caller and helped the Owls win four of their last five games—including a 28-3 win over FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl. Nutile ended up outperforming his predecessor, who has since transferred. Last season, Nutile completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards, 12 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He will also have the services of one of his top targets last season in Isaiah Wright, who had 46 receptions, 668 yards, and four touchdowns. The Wildcats shut down the Temple run game last season, but the Owls managed to get 274 passing yards against a full-strength ‘Nova defense. Nutile’s game will be important to dictating whether or not Temple can further that momentum from last season, or if he’ll go backwards in the wrong direction and make it more favorable for ‘Nova.