Delaware and Villanova’s annual Battle of the Blue game frequently features one of the teams entering the regular season finale with secure FCS playoff aspirations. The rivalry has often come down to sorting out the playoff-bound team’s placement in the bracket, and Villanova has been that squad more regularly than Delaware in the last 15 years.
On Saturday, though, both the Wildcats and the Blue Hens will wake up with the resume insurance necessary to be confident about a playoff bid regardless of a loss in the BOTB.
However, a win in Week 12 will give the Battle of the Blue victor (and minimum CAA Football co-champ) a safe shot at a seed and home field in the second round. Other seed contenders in the subdivision will want to monitor how UD/Nova shakes out and in what fashion or margin of victory.
Delaware is 8-2 with one then-ranked win over No. 11 New Hampshire and one FCS loss to unranked Elon. The Hens’ Massey strength of schedule is currently 60th.
Villanova is 8-2 with one then-ranked win over No. 17 Rhode Island and one FCS loss to No. 12 UAlbany. The ’Cats’ Massey strength of schedule is currently 47th.
What does this weekend’s result mean for both teams for playoff positioning? Let’s start with if the home team wins.
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If Delaware Wins…
It would be the Blue Hens’ first home W over Villanova since 2004 and would give Delaware its second Battle of the Blue win in the last four meetings after Nova took eight straight BOTB trophies from 2012 to 2019.
Setting that series history aside, Delaware would lock up not only its second straight playoff appearance that seems safe as it is, but it also would keep its hold on a seed as a Top 10-ranked team that was high in the committee’s in-season Top 10 and would be adding a Top 10 win to close the regular season. Villanova would be Delaware’s best ranked win of the year.
Elsewhere on the resume, by losing to a quality but unranked/fringe receiving-votes Elon, the Blue Hens took themselves out of top-4 seed consideration by our estimation, but a win over Nova jets them into the No. 5-8 seed picture. We figure that Delaware would like to avoid the 8 line that pipes the winner into a most likely date with No. 1 South Dakota State before the semifinals, but the Hens seem like a 6/7 candidate pending Big Sky and Missouri Valley results.
Villanova losing to Delaware for just the sixth time since 2001 would be a downer for the 2023 Wildcats, a squad that, just like those before it, seeks to preserve the tradition of rivalry dominance attained by other classes.
As mentioned, Villanova would still have plenty of reason to watch the selection show the next day, as the ’Cats’ eight wins overall keep them in position for an at-large bid despite missing out on the fun of involvement in an AQ tiebreaker in the CAA.
Saturday’s Richmond/William & Mary game is between teams behind Nova in the at-large pecking order. The hot, 7-3 overall Spiders must win to put themselves squarely in the conversation as the fourth CAA playoff entrant and the conference’s third at-large recipient (unless the AQ tiebreaker goes their way). The 6-4 overall Tribe can (and probably will) still be left out of the field coming off a win over UR, though such a triumph would have the punch to potentially eliminate Richmond.
In other words, there is breathing room for Villanova, which is helpful given how messy the bubble behind it could become as Saturday progresses.
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If Villanova Wins…
The victorious scenario is a mirror one for Villanova, which would also pick up its best ranked win of the season by denying Delaware years’ worth of pent-up revenge on Saturday.
The Wildcats would carry seed-candidacy momentum into Selection Sunday and likely earn one in the range occupied by Delaware above. CAA counterpart UAlbany would love this development, as the Great Danes would (assuming a win over Monmouth in Week 12) have their 31-10 win over Nova look that much better and guarantee a UA seed at 9-3.
A Villanova win this week also delivers the rivalry-sweetened satisfaction of sending Delaware to the first round and keeping the Blue Hens on the road in a potential Round 2, a fate that caps the Hens’ realistic chances of making a deep run. Nova, meanwhile, would enjoy the week off all the more and would dodge a bracket setup that could feed it into a seeded UAlbany in the second round, let alone a challenge like a trip to a Midwest or West Coast power. The CAA has not fared all that well in those settings lately.
Much like a hypothetical-Week 12-losing Villanova, Delaware is staring at hosting the Patriot League automatic qualifier (Lafayette or Holy Cross) in the first round in the event of falling to Villanova.
Because UD beat Duquesne in the regular season and the committee avoids immediate first-round rematches, the Blue Hens would not entertain the Dukes in Round 1 even if Duquesne is the NEC champ. Delaware hosting Merrimack is a possibility if the Warriors win their auto-bid by knocking out Duquesne head-to-head Saturday.