Villanova prepares for biggest road test

Villanova football coach Andy Talley announced yesterday that Wildcats star Matt Szczur is "questionable" for Saturday's big game at William & Mary, and will likely be a "game-time decision."

"We're not sure where he is at this point," Talley said. "It's just a little early to tell. So we're going to hold off."

Talley said that his team's hard-fought games against Temple and Penn were good preparation for the Wildcats' first conference road trip of the season. There is certainly a lot of buzz in Williamsburg around Saturday's matchup, as Villanova and William & Mary were Nos. 1 and 2 in the CAA preseason poll.

It has not gone unnoticed that Villanova has beaten the Tribe six times in a row. The most recent win came in the semifinals of last year's I-AA playoffs. Cary Field will be sold out, and the game will be televised here on Comcast SportsNet.

"We feel like we've been in the fire, and we're ready for what we're going to find out at William & Mary," Talley said. "It's a must game for us, and it's a must game for them. It's what our league is about."

The hype around the game got dented a bit when the Tribe's starting quarterback, Rob Callahan, injured his throwing arm shoulder last week. Mike Paulus, a transfer from North Carolina, will start under center.

You've probably heard of Paulus' brother: Greg played four years of basketball at Duke, then transferred to Syracuse and played quarterback for the Orange for a season.

'Nova is still licking a few wounds from Saturday's 22-10 win over Penn, a game that Talley called "probably the most physical game that we've had with each other over our tenure of playing."

"I told our staff that I really think this is the best Penn team that we've seen," Talley said. "We're pretty good, and I thought the played great. They were extremely physical."

Talley revealed that the game's decisive play, Jimmy Pitts' 56-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, happened in part because Pitts got his assignment wrong.

"We were fortunate that Jimmy Pitts lined up on the wrong guy," Talley said. "He should have been on the wideout and he jumped inside."

Here are a few other notes from yesterday's local college football coaches' luncheon:

- Penn coach Al Bagnoli said that Billy Ragone will start at quarterback for the Quakers in their Ivy League opener against Dartmouth at Franklin Field on Friday. But Kieffer Garton "may" play in the game as well, Bagnoli said.

Bagnoli added that Garton "practiced all week, so he's pretty close to being ready."

Andy Talley said he has no doubt about how Penn will fare in the Ancient Eight.

"I'm going to have a lot of fun watching the Quakers go on and win the Ivy title," he said. "So I'm putting the bead on [Bagnoli's] back right now."

- Villanova came up with the money to fly to Saturday's game in Williamsburg. Rowan, on the other hand, had no such luck. The Profs will take the bus to Buffalo, N.Y., for their game against Buffalo State.

Rowan coach Jay Accorsi hopes the trip isn't a repeat of the last time his team traveled to upstate New York. One of the team's buses had a mechanical problem, and could only move at 30 mph.

- Ursinus recorded a whopping 44:06 of time of possession in their 24-7 win over Susquehanna. In the audio player below, you can listen to Bears coach Pete Gallagher explain what it took to hold on the ball for so much of the game.

Local Sagarin ratings

22. Penn State (22-27-24-10)
50. Temple (46-60-59-99)
66. Delaware (92-65-106-112)
67. Rutgers (53-57-39-60)
72. Villanova (69-71-104-64)
131. Penn (131-128-130-135)
162. Lehigh (162-168-143-146)
181. Princeton (208-187-189-187)
198. Lafayette (204-220-141-156)
227. Delaware State (221-222-220-204)
238. Bucknell (235-235-230-213)

Sagarin predictions for selected games

(All games Saturday unless otherwise noted. I-A rankings by the AP, I-AA rankings by The Sports Network)

No. 22 Penn State at No. 18 Iowa (8:00 p.m., ESPN): Iowa by 2 (80.71 + 3.00 to 81.72)
Temple at Army (12:00 p.m., CBS College Sports): Temple by 6 (74.01 to 64.71 + 3.00)
No. 1 Villanova at No. 7 William & Mary (3:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet): Villanova by 2 (69.79 to 64.70 + 3.00)
Dartmouth at Penn (3:30 p.m., Comcast Network): Penn by 16 (57.01 + 3.00 to 44.14)
Delaware at No. 3 James Madison (12:00 p.m., Comcast Network): James Madison by 7 (77.37 + 3.00 to 71.21)

No. 11 Wisconsin at No. 24 Michigan State (3:30 p.m., ABC): Michigan State by 1 (76.45 + 3.00 to 79.15)
No. 21 Texas vs. No. 8 Oklahoma at Dallas (3:30 p.m., ESPN*): Oklahoma by 4 (87.48 to 83.54)
No. 7 Florida at No. 1 Alabama (8:00 p.m., CBS): Alabama by 5 (93.68 + 3.00 to 92.11)
No. 9 Stanford at No. 4 Oregon (8:00 p.m., ESPN2*): Oregon by 6 (89.85 + 3.00 to 86.62)

* - These are ABC reverse mirror games. They will be broadcast in standard definition. The 8:00 p.m. ABC game on local broadcast here is Notre Dame at Boston College. Coverage maps for all of ABC's games this weekend are here.

James Madison, by the way, is ranked No. 36 in Sagarin. That's the highest ranking for a I-AA team by a long way. Delaware is the second-highest-ranked I-AA team. Alabama and Florida are Nos. 1 and 2 in the overall Sagarin ranking, with Boise State No. 3.