If you're a fan of small(er) college football and live in the Northeast U.S., the game of the year will be played at noon on Saturday when the defending national champion Villanova University Wildcats meet the five-time national champion University of Delaware Blue Hens.
While Villanova is best known for its legendary basketball and track teams, Delaware has set the standard in Football Championship Series (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) football for decades, as well as been a factory for pro quarterbacks, among them Super Bowl MVP Rich Gannon of the Oakland Raiders and Joe Flacco (photo below), who was taken by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2008 draft and is having a sensational third season. Meanwhile, Delaware quarterback Pat Devlin is expected to go high in next year's draft.
Delaware is 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Colonial Athletic Conference play, while Villanova is an atypical 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the CAA, which is by far the toughest conference in the FCS.
How tough? No fewer than six of the 10 CAA teams have been in the top 25 in national polls all season, and Delaware and three other CAA teams will qualify for the 20-team post season tournament, which unlike major colleges will not end in a flurry of overhyped, commercial-sodden and largely meaningless bowls with a computer-picked national champion, but real playoffs with a national champion who earns the title.
Delaware, not coincidentally my alma mater and employer, is favored by a touchdown.
The game is available for most Comcast and Verizon Fios subscribers, as well as on some satellite networks. It is not available for the chumps who are stuck with Cablevision. Post-season tournament games will be broadcast on the ESPNs.That's not the University of Michigan Wolverines coming out the tunnel in the photo above, but rather the Delaware Blue Hens. Both wear identical so-called winged helmets of blue and gold, arguably the most recognizable helmet in the college game.
ABOUT THAT WINGED HELMET
The history of the winged helmet began at Princeton University in 1931 when legendary coach Herbert O. "Fritz" Crisler added the wing design, believing it made it easier for his quarterbacks to connect with pass receivers. Crisler moved on to Michigan and introduced the helmet there. Among his disciples was Dave Nelson, who was to go on to be a legendary coach himself and father of the Delaware Wing T offense.
Nelson took the helmet design with him to the University of Maine and then to Delaware. Meanwhile, Princeton football teams still wear a contemporary version of the winged helmet in black and orange, while several NCAA Division II schools and junior colleges also wear them in various color combinations.