Anders Said It: CAA is Villanova’s for the Taking


Quinn Burns/Villanovan Photography

The reigning CAA champions, Villanova, have a big opportunity this season.

Anders Pryor, Sports Columnist

Villanova football enters the 2022 season with excitement after coming off a successful 2021 campaign that included a trip to the postseason, a playoff victory over Holy Cross and a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship. It was a season so successful that it saw a Wildcat get drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft: Christian Benford to the Buffalo Bills. So successful, it saw former defensive coordinator Ola Adams get a gig as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Denver Broncos. 

Now, the CAA has some new kids on the block and some who graduated. These changes make the outlook of Villanova repeating its success from last season a very real possibility. 

One of the big stories of the offseason for FCS Division I was James Madison moving up to the FBS, joining the well-respected Sun Belt Conference, which includes big programs like Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina. JMU had a historic run last year that included a trip to the FCS Championship against North Dakota State and losing just one conference game, against Villanova, 28-27. With quarterback Cole Johnson no longer on the roster after his incredible season of more than 6,000 yards and 55 touchdowns, senior Todd Centeio will be under center this time around. Many expect JMU’s first year in the Sun Belt to be not as pleasant for the Dukes with the sudden jump in competition. 

While JMU left the conference, two new teams have joined. Monmouth made its way over from the Big South Conference, where it went 6-1 in conference and 7-4 overall in 2021. Monmouth is led by junior quarterback Tony Muskett, who last year put up 2,651 passing yards and completed 65.1% of his passes for 25 touchdowns while throwing six interceptions. He had three games in 2021 with four touchdown passes and is expected to continue his success in the new conference.

Hampton is the first Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to become a part of the CAA since its establishment in 1979. Hampton is coming over from the Big South. On paper, the Pirates don’t appear to pose as much of a threat as Monmouth, going just 3-4 in conference and 5-6 overall last year. Despite the less impressive records, Hampton does have a bright spot and potential year-long matchup threat in receiver Jadakis Bonds, who finished last year with 773 yards and six touchdowns. 

 With the top dog in JMU out of the picture and none of the newcomers posing any immediate threat, the CAA is Villanova’s for the taking. 

As of this week, Villanova (5) is the highest ranked team in the conference by a respectable margin. Delaware (13), Rhode Island (20) and William & Mary (22) are the only others to crack the top 25. 

Junior quarterback Connor Watkins has shown great promise in his first two outings as the starter for head coach Mark Ferrante. He combined for nearly 500 yards and five touchdowns in his stints against Lehigh and Long Island. He also has thrown four interceptions.

With no harsh competition in sight and all the momentum in the world, a top five finish is perfectly within reach for the Wildcats this year. And with the Battle of the Blue against Delaware at Villanova Stadium this time around, don’t be shocked if an undefeated in-conference season becomes part of the discussion in the latter half of the year. 

If Villanova can put back-to-back CAA titles together and have another successful playoff run, it’ll create even more cultural relevance for football on campus and place the program in a position where we haven’t quite seen it since its national title in 2009. 

It’s a big one for the ‘Cats this year.