VILLANOVA, Pa. - A matchup between two perennial CAA Football heavyweights takes center stage this Saturday when ESPN's College Gameday will be in Harrisonburg, Va. for a key conference showdown between No. 11 Villanova (4-2, 2-1) and No. 1 James Madison (5-0, 2-0), which kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at Bridgeforth Stadium on the JMU campus.
College Gameday airs on ESPN from 9 a.m. until Noon on Saturday, while the game itself is this week's CAA Football Game of the Week on College Sports Live. The streaming broadcast can be seen online free of charge via the link at the top of this release and is also accessible on the Villanova Athletics mobile app. Every Wildcats football game can also be heard on 610 Sports WTEL-AM, with the live audio also available online.
Villanova will be playing the nation's top-ranked team for the ninth time in its history and the first time since the 2010 playoffs. In their eight previous games against No. 1 opponents the Wildcats are 3-5, with road victories over Richmond in 2009 and Delaware in 2010. Villanova has won nine of its last 13 games against top-five opponents since 2008, and during that span has an overall record of 79-41 while making six postseason appearances.
The other side of the story on Saturday is the host Dukes, who have won 17 consecutive games and are the defending FCS national champions. James Madison has not lost to another FCS member since falling to Colgate in the second round of the 2015 playoffs, and the Dukes have won eight of 11 previous home meetings with the Wildcats. The two teams have combined for at least a share of 11 conference titles.
Saturday's game will also be the 91st time that Villanova plays in a battle of two nationally-ranked teams. Of the previous 90, no matchup has been more common than the Wildcats and against JMU. They have met on 12 previous occasions when both teams were ranked, with both sides winning six of those games. James Madison leads the overall series by a 14-11 margin.
Villanova has been powered by its defense this season and is allowing opponents just 13.2 points per game. The defense has been particularly stingy against the run, holding opponents to a mere 1.8 yards per carry and 50.0 yards per game. In their recent contests, the Wildcats have stepped up their defense to an even higher level. Villanova is coming off consecutive victories against Towson and Maine in which it has forced as many turnovers as it has allowed points (nine). In addition, the Wildcats have not allowed a passing touchdown on 188 consecutive passing attempts by the opposition over the last five games.
Thanks in part to forcing a season-high six turnovers in the Maine game, Villanova reached the 30-point plateau for the third time this season. The mark has been somewhat of a magic number for the Wildcats in recent years. Villanova is 33-3 over the last seven seasons when it scores at least 30 points, including 10 straight victories in such games. More than one-third of the Wildcats points this season (64 of 175) have come off of turnovers, including three defensive touchdowns and six offensive scores on the ensuing Villanova possession after the defense forced a turnover.
Beyond the JMU game this week will be a well-deserved bye for the Wildcats, who will have played seven straight weeks and five times on the road to begin the 2017 season. Villanova plays three of its final four regular season contests at home, starting with an October 28 date versus Elon.