FCS First-Round Playoff
The Matchup – Villanova (9-3, 5-3 CAA) at Southeastern Louisiana (7-4, 6-3 Southland)
Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET at Strawberry Stadium in Hammond, Louisiana
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Coaches – Villanova: Mark Ferrante (19-15, three seasons); Southeastern Louisiana: Frank Scelfo (11-11, two seasons)
3 Players to Watch – Villanova: QB Daniel Smith (2,991 passing yards, 43 total TDs), WR Changa Hodge (1,020 receiving yards, 12 TDs), OLB Forrest Rhyne (105 tackles, 6½ sacks); Southeastern Louisiana: QB Chason Virgil (2,881 passing yards, 18 TDs), RB Devonte Williams (969 scrimmage yards, 11 total TDs), CB Ferlando Jordan (5 INTs with 255 return yards, 8 PBUs)
The Skinny – In deep conferences, Villanova was picked ninth in the CAA Football preseason poll and Southeastern Louisiana was the eighth choice in the Southland, but both teams have enjoyed big seasons. Ferrante is only in his third campaign as Villanova’s head coach, but he was a part of all 23 of the Wildcats’ previous playoff games (in 12 appearances) as an assistant, including a national championship-winning season in 2009. Smith, the Campbell grad transfer, has averaged nearly four total TDs in wins (35 in nine victories). After the Wildcats lost leading rusher Justin Covington to a midseason injury, freshman DeeWil Barlee has come on with three 100-yard performances in the last five games. OLB Drew Wiley (15 tackles for loss, 5½ sacks) has joined Rhyne often in opposing backfields. Southeastern Louisiana posted two regular-season wins over Top 10 opponents (Jacksonville State and Central Arkansas) and Villanova comes in with a No. 8 ranking. The Lions have excelled with a two-QB system, bringing Arkansas 6-foot-7 transfer Cole Kelley (18 total TDs) off the bench. It helps to have many offensive weapons, including five players with at least 39 receptions, led by C.J. Turner with 58. The defense also is balanced, combining for 96 tackles for loss and 41 sacks (Berglund leads in both categories with 15 and 7½, respectively).
Up Next – The winner will play at No. 6 seed Montana (9-3) in the second round Dec. 7.
Prediction – The quarterback play will be fun to watch and there’s potential for an offensive shootout. Southeastern Louisiana, 35-31