In going 9-4 a year ago in Steve Addazio's debut, the Owls were able to play downhill a lot. They're very good at it. It was the tight games that gave them problems. Now that they're in the Big East and not the MAC, odds are they will have to deal with more of those tight ones. That's OK. It's what moving up is all about.
Unlike a year ago, when Addazio inherited 14 starters, this time he's had to replace a bunch across the board. That happens, too, because it's all part of the process. But it sure helps when you have someone like Chris Coyer, who didn't get his chance until the second half of last season. And all he did was give the Owls a totally different dimension, one that Addazio no doubt wanted to implement from his days at Florida.
When he took over from Al Golden, he decided to go with what he had in place. And nobody should have any problem with that. It made sense, especially early on. But it eventually became clear that the Owls needed a new quarterback, and Coyer never looked back. When he's right, the Owls are hard to stop, even with a thin, seriously revamped line. It's really as simple as that. He was the Offensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl for a reason. And now it's his job for this season and next. It doesn't hurt that he's got the diminuative Matt Brown, who spent the last three seasons backing up Bernard Pierce, lining up behind him. And Boston College transfer Montel Harris, who figures to make his mark here as well in the one season of eligibility he has left.
I don't know how successful these Owls will be. Something around .500 sounds about right. All it takes is maybe a bounce here or there to get them above the Mendoza line and back into the postseason. And that would be a huge deal, considering everything that's gone down since the end of last season.
Villanova might be starting a different quarterback next week against Fordham, which should provide much less resistance. Last season Andy Talley wound up starting three guy, including a former walk-on. Redshirt freshman Dustin Thomas, who got injured, is now a wide receiver. Chris Polony, who took over late as a true frosh, seemed to make some strides. But Friday night he didn't show much. And second-year frosh John Robertson did. You hate to bail on somebody too early, but when you're coming off 2-9, maybe your patience isn't nearly what it used to be. We'll see. Kind of makes you appreciate just how good Chris Whitney was for all those big-time years that preceeded 2011.
I still think the Wildcats will be appreciably better than last year, although I don't know exactly what that means yet. You can't judge them by this. There will be growth. The question is how much, and how soon? Their schedule is more condusive early. A reasonable goal would be to get to late October with a chance to be a factor. Supposedly, this team is a year away. But when you're three years removed from a national title and two from a near-repeat, sometimes just getting back to contender status isn't enough to wow Nova Nation. But it's where they are.