It’s time to get down to business. Your 2015 JMU Dukes kick off the football season this Saturday with a home game against the mighty Morehead State (alma mater of the great Phil Simms btw). Like we’ve done for every game the past few seasons, we’re running a prediction contest each week again.
Here’s how it’s gonna work. You leave a comment on this post letting us know who you think you will win and what the final score will be. The person who comes closest to nailing it (winner & score) will get to write a guest post on anything his or her heart desires. Be sure to use an email you actually check when you enter your comments so we can contact you if you win. And while we understand getting a chance to contribute to this fair blog of ours is a very big deal, let’s not get bent out of shape over tiebreakers if it comes to that. It’s just for fun. Sound good? Great. Now give us your prediction below and get ready for some football. Keep rootin’.
Look, I’m up for the Richmond Ticks preview tonight. But the truth is, there’s an infamous “Spadahs” fan that puts my previewing to shame and we see no reason to deprive you of his magical stylings! Seriously, this guy has got to be my absolute favorite thing about CAA Football. So earnest, such a fan, and never whining and complaining about his team’s lot in life like yours truly. So without further ado, here he is, the man, the myth, the head Tick. Satchmo forevah!
But wait, there’s bonus material as the greatest man on the whole interwebs appears to be stone-cold chillin’ at the beach this summer. Seriously, this Richmond/Elon preview is fantastic and he’s mailing it in more than me on a night we find out another program is passing JMU by. If you really want to see him takin’ her easy, find the URI preview in the hammock. You can thank us later.
If you could cast aside any discussion of JMU moving up to FBS (please), it’s hard not to see the appeal of these big intra-FCS matchups. JMU’s upset over Virginia Tech is easily the most memorable moment in JMU football history for a lot of fans. And with good reason. As someone who was lucky enough to attend the 2008 home game against Appalachian State, which at the time was a legendary FCS program, let me tell you that it was about as exciting as any football game I’ve attended. At any level. To say that campus was electric all day wouldn’t be doing it justice. And the game, which featured the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the country, actually exceeded the hype.
On the other hand, there is something particularly enticing about getting a chance to face a larger FBS program. While the chances for an upset against a legitimate power team are small, the victory in Blacksburg proved that it’s amazing when it happens. Of course, there are also games against the relative bottom tier of FBS, which are much more winnable, but probably don’t generate anywhere near the buzz of beating a top P5 program. There’s also the payday element. Playing one game against a top team for a few hundred thousand dollars is nothing to ignore.
Personally speaking, I’d prefer to do a home and home against a top FCS program. Give me a game in Bridgeforth against North Dakota State or a chance to trek out to Montana to take on the Grizzlies over a random FBS game anyday. Beating VT was amazing. Losing to Maryland, Akron, and West Virginia was not. But I’m sure others may disagree though. So vote in the poll and feel free to elaborate in the comments.
Vad Lee, Alex Mosley, Gage Steele, and Deane Cheatham are your 2015 JMU Football captains. The four were the top vote-getters in a player election. As Coach Withers mentioned, twenty different players received votes. That’s an indication of the fact that this team has no shortage of leadership.
Vad Lee being named a captain was perhaps the least surprising news of the preseason. After transferring from Georgia Tech in 2014, he quickly won over his teammates, and was elected a captain in his first year as a Duke. And his play on the field was nothing short of spectacular. He set school records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. In Vad We Trust, and so do the players.
Alex Mosley is a redshirt senior who will play nose gaurd for the Dukes’ defense. It’s a position that doesn’t typically fill up the stat sheet in a 3-4 defense, but he managed to rack up 55 tackles, including 2 for a loss and 1 sack, last year. He’s a workhorse and the anchor of the defensive line.
Gage Steele is a talented redshirt junior linebacker. He was outstanding as a freshman playing with all time JMU great Stephon Robertson, collecting 105 tackles. Last year, he battled injuries and was limited to just 3 starts. He didn’t have the numbers some expected him to, but still was very effective. We’re counting on a big year from him now that’s he healthy and the whole unit has acclimated to the new scheme. He’s also a Dean’s List student.
Deane Cheatham is a redshirt senior tight end coming off a break out year last season. He entered his junior year with a whopping 19 career catches for the Dukes. Then he proceeded to wow everyone with 42 catches for 453 yards. And he did it in only 10 games before missing the remainder of the season due to injury.
After all the JMU and Villanova hype, it’s easy to forget there is a third heavyweight in the Preseason CAA prediction division. The most consistent team in FCS over the last decade hasn’t been who you might think, it’s been New Hampshire. Seriously, these guys win 7+ games, ALWAYS make the playoffs (seriously, 11 straight appearances), and seem to produce QB/WR combo after QB/WR combos like clockwork every year. But we, along with every other FCS fan, tend to sometimes forget they exist. Maybe because they are a football-only northern school, we’re as consistent in underplaying the Wildcat’s program as they are at outperforming expectations. And this year the Dukes miss these Wildcats so it would be extra easy to do it again despite the fact UNH was a national semi-finalist last year, losing by 3 to runner up Illinois St. But don’t make that mistake.
All the talk about Nova’s John Robertson and our beloved Vad Lee also tends to overlook the third giant in the CAA QB discussion, Sean Goldrich. As usual, he’ll be slinging it around and racking up numbers, but it could be a little more difficult this year without a proven backup and more importantly after losing all-everything WR R.J. Harris to the New Orleans Saints. In a lot of ways, the Wildcats lineup sets up much the same as the Dukes. They lost about half their starters from last year, including some real playmakers, and will need to count on new guys stepping in, but with Goldrich back at full strength, HC Sean McDonnell always steady at the helm, and a whole lot of institutional memory of winning, they should be as dangerous as ever.
The Schedule: One HUGE advantage for UNH this year is that the CAA schedule has them avoiding BOTH JMU and Villanova. Seriously, it would be no surprise at all to see the big JMU/Nova season-ending clash be nothing more than an anti-climactic battle for second and third if UNH coasts home undefeated in conference play like last year. They also host Richmond and the only even arguably tough game is a trip to W&M in mid-October. We guess at some point they’re “due” to fail to meet their own expectations, but if nothing else a schedule that includes a long-travel-but-winnable FBS opener at San Jose St. (actually fairly similar to JMU’s trip to Dallas) should easily set them up to make it a dozen straight postseason appearances.
Finally, a quick shoutout to Sophomore DB Geno Miller. He’s #26 and with no game vs. the Dukes, we’re free to pull hard for the Bishop McNamara product who is lucky enough to be the son of a friend of JMUSB! Good luck Geno.
Prediction: Rob mentioned the “maybe they’re due” theory for a drop off from UNH, but the schedule is just too darn cakey to imagine anything less than 8 wins (really anything less than 9 would be surprising) and a top three CAA finish with a playoff berth.
We are not the ones to tell you how to feel about this. Our hearts are broken just like yours. And this is not the place to discuss any issue other than the missing piece of JMU Nation. It is a terribly sad day for all Dukes, but most of all for the friends and family of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. @Ethan_Booker said it the best way we can think of today: “A JMU girl and a Virginia Tech boy. 24 and 27. Couple hometown kids just doing a report on tourism in their home state this morning. I am sick.”
We all are Mr. Booker, we all are.
The one thing we discussed that we could do was begin to spread the love Ms. Parker and her family seem so willing to share with the world by encouraging you to consider helping out with their new idea of how to honor Alison. Check out this beautiful gesture here.
Years ago, we used to preview every CAA team in the weeks leading up to the season kickoff. We’d say the pieces were basically good to get you smart enough on CAA football that you could at least fake your way through your average JMU football tailgate. Let’s bring it back and see how many team previews we can crank through in the next week and a half. The over-under is 5 (pro-tip: take the under.)
We’ll start this little adventure with a preview of the Delaware Blue Hens. Why are we starting with Delaware? Well, because we’re not very fond of the Blue Chickens and they’re not supposed to be too great this year, so this will give us a chance to warm up, and throw a few easy cheap shots at UD before we dive into previewing the real contenders.
Looking in the Rear View Mirror
UD finished 6-6 last year. There was absolutely nothing great about the Blue Hens and nothing particularly terrible about them either. Which is probably the perfect way to describe Delaware as a state. It’s just sort of, “there.” In fact, it’s unclear if its actually a state at all, or if it’s simply the home of a bridge that exists so mysterious powers that be can collect tolls from thousands of people traveling to and from states with actual purposes. But I digress. The point is that after years of being one of the big kids on the FCS football block, Delaware football has hit a plateau of mediocrity and relative anonymity.
Excuse Us While We Brace For UD Fan Backlash
Yeah, yeah, yeah. JMU did lose to UD 30-23 last year. We’re using our special blogger executive revisionist history powers to declare it a fluke though. The normally reliable Daniel Brown dropped a TD, the offense slept walk through the first 3 quarters, the defense gave up two huge plays, and special teams were anything but special. And if we’re being honest, JMU didn’t become a good team until after that game. So the loss didn’t happen. It. Didn’t. Happen.
The Ones They’ll Bring Back
The Blue Hens return 12 starters from last year’s team. Seven of those returning starters are on the offensive side of the ball and four are on the defensive side. And before you correct my math, they also bring back their punter. So that makes 12. Said punter, Eric Anderson, also happens to be UD’s arguably top returning player. He averaged over 40 net yards a punt last year. Along with offensive lineman, Ben Curtis, and defensive lineman Blaine Woodson, Anderson was selected to the All CAA Preseason team. They also bring back Jalen Randolph, a talented running back who rushed for over 5 yards a carry and 9 TDs last season.
The Ones They’ll Replace
Delaware will need to replace 5 offensive and 8 defensive starters. Last year’s starting QB, Trent Hurley and his top target, wide receiver Michael Johnson, are both gone. Hurley was middle of the road (sensing a theme here?) QB in a conference that had a few truly great ones. He did complete 64% of his passes and toss 13 touchdowns, but he also thew 14 picks. It’s always tough to work in a new QB, but Hurley is far from irreplaceable. Johnson’s loss will be offset by the fact that UD’s other top 2 receivers return.
Defensively, UD might have a bigger hill to climb in terms of reloading. Last year’s entire corps of starting linebackers is gone, as are three members of the starting defensive backfield. It’s essentially going to be a rebuilt defense. Which might be good, because last year’s defense was just OK. But if you’re read this far, you probably already guessed that.
As previously mentioned, last year’s Blue Hens did nothing particularly well. They were pretty much middle of the road in all aspects of the game. UD had the seventh best scoring offense in the league, the 8th best scoring defense, the sixth best rushing attack, the seventh best passing attack, etc. We could go on, but you get the point. Delaware was really, really good…at being average.
Why You Should Care
Look, people might say all sorts of outlandish things about Delaware football. They’ll tell you that it’s a shell of a once great program that has been left adrift in a sea of complacency. They’ll claim that the average (there’s that word again) Blue Hen fan is 86 years old, is still amazed by non-leather helmets, really misses the Wing T offense, and doesn’t care so much about who wins or loses as long as the game ends in time to get home in time for The McGlaughlin Group. They’ll tell tales of a stadium so foul and decrepit, it has piss walls instead of toilets. And well, all of those things are absolutely true. But you still should love it when JMU and Delaware get together.
The Blue Hens really were among the cream of the FCS crops for years. The JMU vs. Delaware series has produced some truly epic moments. Delaware was once the measuring stick by which many FCS programs (including possibly JMU) measured themselves. Sure, UD has definitely been playing below its program’s lofty standards, but the Blue Hens are not out. Far from it. UD is much more likely just a sleeping giant. Which is good. Because as much as we love to hate them, FCS football is definitely better when the Blue Hens are good. In fact in our ideal world, they would be a Top 5 team every year (with JMU being a Top 4 team that routinely beats them of course.)
Relatively Uniformed Preseason Prediction
Middle of the pack. Sleeping giant or not, we don’t see UD awaking this season. The Blue Hens should be good enough to distance themselves from the dregs of the league, but probably won’t be able to keep up with the real contenders week in and week out. Pencil them in for an upset of at least one top 4 CAA team, offset by a head-scratching loss or two. They’re a generic team worthy of a generic prediction. We think they’ll end up about the same as last year, 6-5 and left out of the playoffs.
— Jodi Scott Root (@JodiScottRoot) August 23, 2015
Former JMU receiver Daniel Brown scored his first professional touchdown in the Ravens’ preseason game last night. As an undrafted free agent trying to make the team, Brown has his work cut out for him. He took advantage of his opportunity on the field last night however, snagging this pass from QB Bryn Renner and going in for six late in the fourth quarter. Check out the official broadcast video over on NFL.com if you want to hear the announcers rave about the catch a bit. It really was a heck of a catch.
…well, the 2015-16 year in JMU Athletics has finally reached us. And if you’ve stayed with our filler, mailing-it-in, often antagonistic or downright offensive, and tortured bored out of our minds selves this summer, well just bless your sweet little heart.
But here we go as the year kicks off with the Women’s Soccer team hosting a seasoning open mini-tourney in the ‘Burg. They host Georgetown at U-Park at 7 p.m. today (if you’re reading this Friday) and follow that up with Seton Hall on Sunday (W&M is also in town facing an opposite schedule but the Dukes won’t face the Tribe this weekend). Hope the ladies can get this year off to an auspices start!
We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention our [still and forever] favorite squad (at least as long as Taylor West is in school) Field Hockey who scrimmages Syracuse in the hinterlands of Pennsyltucky today as well. With another year remaining for the Reitano/le Vatte/Hubert/Stijntjes core backing her up and hopefully some more speedy underclassmen, this team is primed for a HUGE year in CAA play and hopefully beyond.
Finally, we’re a little late to the game, but JMU’s own Strength of the Unit series is a great primer for football season. The newest installment, on the Receiving corps, is one of the best (and we’re excited about the WR position this year with a great combo of returning players and newcomers).
Two weeks from today, we’ll be feasting on previewing Football’s home opener and Beer of the Week. Until then, enjoy some great appetizers!
Matt DiBennedeto is your new favorite NASCAR driver. At least, he’ll be driving your favorite car in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 12. Because Dibennedeto’s car will be all decked out in purple and gold and sporting our very own Duke Dog on the hood. And it’s beautiful.
Dibennedeto is a Sprint Cup rookie driving the 83 car for BK Racing. The team is co-owned by Ron Devine, a JMU graduate from the class of 1978. Devine also served on the JMU Board of Visitors for eight years. In the official press release, Devine explained:
“James Madison University is a wonderful university that is nationally known. We are excited to be able to display the JMU logos on the national stage through NASCAR. As an alumnus, I was glad to provide this sponsorship for JMU and Athletics as a way to support its strategic plan, national branding efforts and overall university pride. I want to thank all of the JMU staff and especially the JMU Foundation for supporting this effort. Hopefully this will be the start of many efforts like this to come. Go Dukes!”
All that is true. It’s great exposure for JMU. Really though, we’re just happy we’ll get a chance to see Duke Dog go for a little cruise the lights at over 100 miles per hour. The race takes place the same night as the Dukes home game versus Lehigh, but we’d like to think the Duke Club has a nice spot on Godwin field set aside for the Duke Dog mobile at the remaining home games.