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Penn State looks to remain undefeated this week with a home game against the Villanova Wildcats. Penn State hasn’t played an in-state FCS opponent since the split in football subdivisions, and it’s been a long time since Penn State has gotten together with Villanova.
Penn State fans may not be too familiar with Villanova or their history. The Villanova football program has a good history and remains one of the better FCS programs in college football. Villanova has a national championship and a head coach in the College Football Hall of Fame, and you may have heard of a few former standouts who made a living in the NFL like Howie Long and Brian Westbrook.
If you are unfamiliar with the opponent Penn State is playing this weekend, here are five quick things to know about the Villanova Wildcats.
Villanova has a three-game winning streak vs. Penn State
Probably my favorite schedule tidbit this college football season; Penn State looking to snap a three-game losing streak to Villanova. Via @NittanyLionWire https://t.co/lbNknTGa4m pic.twitter.com/9xleZPb3zM
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) August 12, 2021
Don’t get it twisted, but the Wildcats are looking to extend their winning ways against the Nittany Lions this weekend. But the last time this series was played, Penn State wasn’t the Penn State it is today, nor is Villanova what it was either. Penn State and Villanova have not played since 1951, and the programs have certainly gone their different paths since being much more on the same level. But regardless, it is still a fun fact to keep in mind as this weekend’s matchup approaches.
Villanova has four all-time wins against FBS opponents
FCS teams have been having some success this season against FBS opponents, and Villanova has a few wins against FBS opponents in their program history as well. Villanova has won three games against Temple (2003, 2009, and 2018) and one against Rutgers (2002). To date, Villanova has never beaten a team from a power conference since classifying as a 1-AA/FCS program in 1985 (to be fair, Rutgers was a member of the Big East at a time the conference could be considered a power conference).
This will be Villanova’s second game against a ranked FBS opponent. The last one before this weekend was played against No. 8 West Virginia in 2008. West Virginia won that game 48-21.
NEXT: What is Villanova’s all-time history against Big Ten teams?
Villanova is 12-24-1 all-time against current Big Ten members
Penn State and Villanova have a history, of course, but the Wildcats have also faced some other Big Ten members over the course of their history. Villanova has also faced Rutgers (as previously mentioned), Indiana and Maryland. Here is Villanova’s record all-time against current Big Ten members;
0-2 vs. Indiana
2-9 vs. Maryland
3-5-1 vs. Penn State
7-8 vs. Rutgers
Villanova won a thriller last week vs. Richmond
The Wildcats are off to a wild start to their season this year. After blowout victories over Lehigh and Bucknell, the Wildcats were challenged by Richmond last week. Richmond had a 27-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter before Daniel Smith led a furious comeback. Villanova scored 21 points in the final five minutes. A 44-yard touchdown pass to Jaaron Hayek gave the Wildcats a lead and a 47-yard touchdown pass to Rayjoun Pringle provided a late cushion.
Smith earned CAA Football Co-Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Spiders. Smith is one completion away from 600 career completions and one touchdown away from 75 career touchdowns (Smith previously played at Campbell before transferring to Villanova).
It’s early, but Villanova leads the FCS in turnover margin
Penn State has been excellent with its turnover margin early on this season, a stark contrast from a year ago. But Villanova will come into the game leading the FCS in turnover margin. If the Wildcats are going to make this any sort of a game, they will have to hope to find a way to keep that advantage against the Nittany Lions. Villanova leads the FCS with 11 forced turnovers this season with eight interceptions. Of course, Lehigh and Bucknell aren’t exactly the kind of opponent Villanova will be facing this weekend.