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Gameday Preview: Villanova vs. UConn, Thursday College Football Schedule, How to Watch, TV

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After a long offseason, UConn is finally ready to prove its many doubters wrong. The Huskies have a chance to make a statement against Villanova today.

Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a long, long offseason for fans of UConn football after last year's 2-10 campaign. But hope springs eternal with the start of a new season and the possibility, however faint, of a vastly improved UConn team.

It seems as though every preseason prognosticator, whether they are using a computer formula or the old-school eye test, is predicting UConn to be one of the worst teams in all of FBS.

But in the UConn locker room one hears a completely different story.

Bob Diaco was dead serious at the American Athletic Conference Media Day when he said he believed the Huskies will win every game and make the College Football Playoff. Senior captain Andrew Adams echoed those sentiments. Whether or not they all believe this season is destined for a 15-0 finish, every single player believes this program is built for winning. The impact of culture change should not be ignored, especially when considering the performance of college-age athletes.

Far too often, people look at things for what they are, and not what they can become. Jim Calhoun took a solid dig at Duke basketball head coach Mike Kryzzewski along the same sentiment regarding the recruitment of a one Ben Gordon, future national champion, Big East Tournament and Phoenix Regional Most Outstanding Player and No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft.

Say whatever you want about Bob Diaco, that having two starting quarterbacks was dumb, that shutting down the passing game against USF was even dumber, that angering The Horde in whatever ways he has was maybe not in his best interest, but he is not a stupid person. You don't become defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and win the Broyles Award for best assistant coach in the country by accident. He saw the potential of the top public university in New England, of a school which saw a basketball power emerge from a hope and a prayer and a brash young man from Boston. He saw a football program that made the Fiesta Bowl 10 years after jumping to Division I-A, competed with the best of the conference formerly known as the Big East, and has some of the best facilities in the country.

Diaco is turning this program around. Look no further than the recruiting results. The 2016 recruiting class is off to a remarkable start. The Class of 2015 was about on par with what previous coaches had brought into Storrs, but that alone is an accomplishment considering UConn's abysmal 2014 season and recent perceived downgrade to the American Athletic Conference.

The question is if the fans, and more importantly Warde Manuel, will have enough patience to let Diaco see his vision through. UConn can't afford to have weak attendance numbers for much longer.

We've heard a lot about weight gains, brotherhood, teaching, learning, "the process" and whatever other analogies Diaco and his staff have made about the measures of progress the Huskies have made this offseason. Structurally, however, there is cause for optimism.

Unlike the pro sports which New Englanders are so familiar with, players are actually able to make significant leaps year to year in the college game, so there are a number of players who could break out this season. Additionally, at quarterback, the most important position on the field, the coaches believe they have made a significant upgrade from last year, and, unlike all the coach-speak of this offseason, this upgrade is easy to believe.

There is a precedent for coaches making big, unexpected leaps in their second year at the helm after a brutal rookie campaign. George O'Leary went 0-11 in his first year at UCF. The next season the Knights finished the regular season 8-4 before losing in the Hawaii Bowl. North Carolina State finished 8-5 last year after winning the St. Petersburg Bowl. The previous year under first-year head coach Dave Doeren they lost their final eight games of the season to finish 3-9. Matt Rhule led Temple to a 6-6 finish after going 2-10 his first year. (In a previous article, I said look at Rhule for an example of slow growth, but I actually meant Al Golden.)

Maybe this is the start of a bowl campaign and the rebirth of UConn football. Crazier things have happened.

GAME CAPSULE

History: 14th meeting (Villanova leads series, 9-4)

First meeting: October 31, 1987 (UConn W, 34-23)

Last meeting: 1999 (Villanova W, 48-45, 3OT)

Gametime/TV: 7:30, SNY/ESPN3

Radio: FM: 91.7 WHUS, AM: WILI 1400 (Willimantic), WAVZ 1300 (New Haven), WGCH 1490 (Greenwich)

Thu, Sept 3, 2015
6:00 PM ET
CBSS
FIU at UCF
6:00 PM ET
ESPN
North Carolina vs.
(Charlotte, NC)
South Carolina
7:00 PM ET
ESPN3
Stony Brook at Toledo
7:00 PM ET
ESPN3
VMI at Ball State
7:00 PM ET
ESPNU
Oklahoma State at Central Michigan
7:00 PM ET
ESPN3
Elon at Wake Forest
7:30 PM ET
ESPN3
Villanova at Connecticut
7:30 PM ET
ESPN3
Alcorn State at (16) Georgia Tech
8:00 PM ET
SECN
Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt
8:30 PM ET
FS1
Michigan at Utah
9:00 PM ET
ESPN3
Ohio at Idaho
9:00 PM ET
N/A
Southern Utah at Utah State
9:00 PM ET
ESPN
(2) TCU at Minnesota
9:30 PM ET
CBSS
Duke at Tulane
10:00 PM ET
MWC Video
Abilene Christian at Fresno State
10:00 PM ET
N/A
New Hampshire at San Jose State
10:00 PM ET
MWC Video
California-Davis at Nevada
10:00 PM ET
PAC12
Texas-San Antonio at (22) Arizona
Fri, Sept 4, 2015
1:00 AM ET
CBSS
Colorado at Hawaii