clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Villanova vs. James Madison: 3 Things To Know About The Dukes

Plenty of roster turnover from the team that beat 'Nova last year.

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

#8 Villanova (1-1) will host James Madison (2-1) this Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:30pm ET and the game will air on Comcast SportsNet. That likely means the game will only be available in the Philadelphia area, but we might see some regional networks pick up the game as the week unfolds.

Villanova went to Harrisonburg last year and fell 31-21, but the Dukes' roster has seen plenty of turnover since last season, most notably starting quarterback Michael Birdsong and 1,000 yard rusher Dae'Quan Scott. JMU also replaced longtime head coach Mickey Matthews and brought in Everett Withers to run the program.

Here's three things to know about the Dukes:

JMU's strength was supposed to be their defense, but that hasn't been the case

The Dukes' returned a ton of defensive starters, led by All-CAA safety Dean Marlowe and linebacker Titus Till, a transfer from Maryland. In the preseason, Withers, a defensive guru himself, thought the defense would have to carry this team early while the offense figured things out.

It's been quite the opposite in Harrisonburg, as the defense has allowed 34 ppg so far (a number inflated by the 52 points Maryland put on them). Still, allowing 28 to Lehigh and 22 to St. Francis (PA) won't have Withers smiling with a the high-powered Wildcats offense waiting for them this weekend.

Villanova will likely stick with a heavy running game again - the Dukes have been gashed on the ground to the tune of 285 yards (Maryland), 287 yards (Lehigh) and 303 yards (St. Francis) to open the season.

John Robertson won't be the only dual-threat QB on the field

Dukes' QB Vad Lee, a transfer from Georgia Tech, will try and steal the spotlight from Robertson on Saturday. Lee played in a triple-option attack at Georgia Tech for two seasons, so you know he's plenty dangerous on the ground. So far this season he's averaging 7.4 ypc, though that's buoyed by his 176 yard performance last weekend vs. St. Francis (PA).

Withers looks like he's trying to get Lee to become a more prominent passer, but he's seen mixed results so far. Lee is completing just 47.6% of his passes with a 4:3 TD/INT ratio. After last week's performance, you might expect JMU to let Lee's talent take over and give him the freedom to run.

Who steps up at the skill positions?

The loss of Scott in the backfield was huge, but Khalid Abdullah has had a nice start to the season. He picked up a knock vs. St. Francis (PA) last week (keep an eye on that) and in his absence freshman John Miller went over 100 yards on 16 carries.

Things would appear to be a little less clear in terms of receiving options, but that's mostly down to Lee's early struggles. He has an experienced group, led by senior Daniel Brown. He's a big target at 6'5" and had his way with 'Nova last year. Sean Tapley, Brandon Ravenel and Rashard Davis will also see plenty of targets.

The Villanova defense (not a single All-CAA nomination among them) has been superb to start the year. On paper, this wouldn't appear to be as stiff a test as Syracuse or Fordham, but with it being the CAA opener you can throw paper out the window. They will get JMU's best shot and with a new coach and offensive system in place, it will be more difficult to scout the Dukes.