Nov 30 / Rob

JMUSB 2017 Playoff Preview #1: JMU vs. Stony Brook

Here we go. The regular season is behind us and it’s time for the real fun to begin. This is where the rubber meats the road. It’s where the men are separated from the boys. Where legends are made. And we’re running out of cliches and trite ways to describe the postseason, so let’s move on.

The Basics

Match-up: #1 JMU Dukes 11-0 (8-0) vs. #10 Stony Brook Seawolves 10-2 (7-1)
Kick-off: 2:00 PM on Saturday, December 2 in Bridgeforth Stadium
Weather: Partly cloudy and a high of 54
Broadcast: ESPN3

How We Got Here

The Dukes had a bye for round one of the FCS playoffs last weekend. They earned the #1 overall seed and the bye after a perfect 11-0 regular season. Perhaps you heard about it. Most recently, JMU defeated Elon 31-3 in the CAA finale. It was an impressive win, in which the Dukes’ offensive line really exerted its will over the Phoenix. JMU dominated in all phases and had the type of dynamic offensive performance fans had been anxious for. The combination of the great win to clinch the CAA title, and a bye week to rest up and get healthy, means the Coach Houston and the boys could be primed for a big Saturday.

Stony Brook on the other hand took care of business against a Lehigh Engineers Mountain Hawks team. The Seawolves won easily, by the score of 59-29. Of course Lehigh was 5-6 in the regular season and only made the playoffs via the autobid for a very weak Patriot League. The Brook (no clue what I just typed that, but let’s go with it) did what had to be done though. Lehigh kept it close for a while, but the Seawolves wore them out. Stony Brook ran the ball very well and had some big plays in the passing game. Eventually Lehigh’s one weakness proved too much to overcome. The weakness being that Lehigh couldn’t play defense. At all. So it turned into a blow out.

Good for the Book (there I go again). We’re not really sure if we should read anything into that though. The CAA was a much better league than the Patriot League this year. It is most years. CAA teams should routinely beat Patriot League teams in the playoffs (shut up).

Strong Island

Stony Brook is located on Long Island. You probably knew that. And you probably think we’re going to make a bunch of Long Island jokes now. We’re not. We’ve got no beef with Long Island or any of its residents. Seriously. Some of our best friends from JMU grew up in Long Island. My parents met in the Hamptons for goodness sakes. But this old Daily Show cracks us up and we wanted to share. So here you go.

New Hampshire Beat Lehigh Last Year in Round One Then…

We get it. At first glance, this looks like a repeat of last year. CAA team beats up on Lehigh in round one, then comes to Bridgeforth and gets run out of the stadium. And God-willing, that’s how things will play out again this year. But Stony Brook is a very different team than last year’s UNH squad. The Seawolves are well constructed to compete with JMU. They’ve got size on both sides of the line, multiple talented players to run the ball, and a QB in Joe Carbone, who’s been effective and efficient all year. He tossed 22 TDs and only 3 picks. The Seawolves are a dangerous and hungry squad. Fans might not be too familiar with the Brook (we’re gonna make this a thing), because they’re relatively new to the CAA. It’s a good team though.

How the Game Will Be Decided

We’re going away from our usual “how each team can win” format, because the recipe is basically the same for each squad. And it all comes down to a couple of very generic, yet very true, football statements. The winning team will be the one that controls the line of scrimmage and wins the turnover battle.

We know, it’s not exactly revolutionary insight. But on paper at least, that’s what it looks like what the game will come down to. The Dukes have won all season by playing within themselves, sticking with the gameplan, and eventually overwhelming its opponents with backbreaking drive when it mattered. It wasn’t much like last year’s squad that scored in bunches and walked away laughing. This year it was more like trading punches, grinding away, and then before anyone realized it they were up 2 scores, and the D had killed the opponent’s will to carry on. It wasn’t always flashy and the games rarely looked like blowouts. But most of them were never in doubt either.

Well that recipe can also describe Stony Brook’s win over Lehigh. It took a while to get going and Lehigh traded punches the entire first half. Then Stony Brook had a quick scoring drive after the break and before anyone realized what happened the game was out of reach. Lehigh couldn’t come back, because Stony Brook just leaned on them with the lead and closed it out.

Stony Brook has an excellent run defense, giving up only 101 yards/game. JMU’s run D is even better. The Dukes are equally effective against the pass though. Stony Brook, not so much. They’re not terrible, but they gave up 224 yards/game in the air. And teams threw for 16 TDs against them. JMU on the other hand surrendered 4 passing TDs all season. That’s not a typo.

Stony Brook has a couple backs who can hurt teams. Stacey Bedell only ran for 664 yards, but still was All CAA First Team thanks to his 5.2 yards/carry average. He could have piled up the yards, if not for the fact that he split carries with Donald Liotine, a talented runner who scored 10 TDs. Basically, Stony Brook has a big offensive line and a willingness to feed whichever tailback gets hot. Sound familiar?

All year, we’ve seen JMU commit to the run and we expect more of the same Saturday.  Donnie Kirkpatrick took the cuffs of Bryan Schor against Elon and said that’s the plan for here on out. That adds an extra element to the Dukes’ rushing attack. If the o-line plays like it did down at Elon and they start moving the chains on the ground, watch out. Things will open up for the receivers and Schor should be able to take advantage.

So like we said, it all comes down to which team controls the line and takes care of the ball. We’re gonna go ahead and assume the JMU will cause problems for Stony Brook defensively. Bedell and Liodine are good enough that it’s foolish to expect them to be shutdown completely. But does anyone really think the Dukes can’t hold them in check? And with Kirkpatrick openly talking about pulling out all the stops now, and the o-line coming into stride, we like where things are headed.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

I had the good fortune to spend Thanksgiving down in Virginia Beach with my wife, kids, parents, sisters, brother in law, nieces, and nephews. In addition to putting on a Bryan Schor-esque performance in our Family Turkey Bowl, I had the chance to duck into Commonwealth Brewing Company for a beer. Todd and I are both huge fans of Commonwealth’s brews and I’d recommend visiting the tasting room if you’re in VA Beach. Everything of theirs I’ve drank has been good. But let’s single out Wapatoolie as the JMUSB BOTW. It’s a big juicy IPA with plenty of tropical flavors. If you’re not a fan of piney West Coast style IPAs, give it a try. You might dig it. We definitely do.

Official JMUSB Prediction

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably gathered that I’m pretty confident heading into Saturday. Stony Brook is a good team, deserving of respect. They’ve got the size and skill position players to beat JMU. We just don’t think they will. Because there’s one more football cliche that we haven’t used this post (perhaps the only one we didn’t use) that most applies. Defense wins championships. Carbone hasn’t seen anything like this Dukes D. And with the o-line clicking and Schor running, we think they’ll be opportunities for the receivers to make plays. Dukes with a statement to open the playoff run. JMU 35 – Stony Brook 10.

 

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