Jan 4 / Todd

JMUSB Official Playoff Preview #4: North Dakota St. vs. JMU

Someone’s starting to look a lot like a certain other heroic RB!

The Basics

#2 North Dakota St. Bison (13-1, 7-1 MVFC) vs. #1 James Madison Dukes (14-0, 8-0 CAA), 11:00 a.m. CST Saturday, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

Coverage: ESPN2. The Deuce. Yes, it’s at high noon on the east coast so you can even roll out a brunch theme for your watch party if you’re not in Texas.

Weather: Mostly sunny, 52 beautiful degrees by gametime. If your plane can get out from whatever East Coast airport is teaching you to leave on Thursday for a Natty, it should be absolute perfection when kickoff comes around in Texas!

What’s at Stake?

Rings. And the unquestioned title of King of FCS. NDSU fans have been consistently referring to JMU, and their loss to the Dukes last year, as a “speed bump rather than a roadblock,” on the road that is the Bison dynasty. If their boys win, that will at least appear to be true for another year. On the other hand, if the Dukes win their 528th straight there would be no doubt who the new heavy is in FCS and the “S-E-C” type cries from Valley fans will be shut the heck up for another year. It would be in no way hyperbolic to say this is the biggest game at the 1-AA level in at least a decade and would rival even the Marshall/Ga. Southern/YSU/App. St. games of yore. In all seriousness, as fans we all need to take a breath and appreciate that we’re actually getting this matchup on the level’s biggest stage.

How NDSU Can Win

They can’t.

Man I wish we could just leave it at that. Alas, we’re only joking. What the Bison really need to do is control the clock and hit a few more plays than they did last year. Obviously, in the oldest of old school midwestern football cliches, the Bison really do love to huddle up and milk the clock like it’s the 1950’s. But it works because it allows them to use their size and strength to grind opponents into the ground. That said, this year’s squad is scoring at a crazy rate and has found big plays, especially wheel routes to TE’s and RB’s, when they’ve needed them. Last year however, even though they did eventually churn out some drives against the Dukes, they never really managed to hit a big play to anyone on the outside. Partially their receivers couldn’t get much separation against the most athletic defensive backfield they’d faced and partially QB Easton Stick struggled to throw a ball well enough deep to really give his guys a chance to make a play. But this was a fine line for the Dukes to walk last year and will likely be the same tight dance this year. If the Bison hit a few big plays, the outcome could be very different.

Similarly, on defense the Bison have to force the Dukes to be one-dimensional by stopping the run. If Marshall goes off Abdullah-style like he did in the semis against SDSU, JMU is nigh impossible to stop. However, there have been games this year where JMU has been stymied in the run game. Against lesser teams (looking at you Delaware and RU), the Dukes always had enough in the passing game tank to take them over the line. But against the Bison and their blitz-heavy schemes, this would not be a gamble the Dukes would like to have to make.

How JMU Can Win

Make more big plays on special teams or trick plays and just do what they do. Haven’t seen much trickeration from the Dukes this year but with three weeks to prep and likely (Weber??) the strongest opponent they’ve faced all year, we expect to see a few things we haven’t seen and it would be huge for the Dukes to hit a few of these. Other than that, they need to avoid some of the careless turnovers and continue to find a way to run the ball a little even if there isn’t huge yardage available in the ground game. And just like last year, JMU is probably going to need QB Bryan Schor to make 2 or 3 true Schor plays and open things up.

On defense, the Dukes need to get off the field when they get the chance on 3rd down. NDSU is big and strong and capable of wearing even the best defense down if given the chance. This is why it’s going to be crucial for the Dukes not to get left out there too long on many possessions and take advantage when they have a chance to get off the field. For any given play, we’d take the JMU D over anyone anywhere, but they can’t win this by themselves. This also means the JMU O needs to avoid 3 and outs as often as possible to give the D a chance to refresh.


We really are going to leave this topic alone. Except for one thing.

Buy streamers, pack streamers, hide streamers, wear streamers, argue about security streamers, incorporate streamers into wands and wardrobes and purses, taunt folks with streamers, throw streamers in a high arc over the #2 seed’s fans, bust out streamers before a score, and of course throw streamers like no one is watching and the NCAA can never even imagine at every score and the final whistle! We’re counting on you Dukes!

Beer of the Week

We can’t have just one for title week.

La Cumbre Brewing’s Project Dank IPA – Thanks to an old friend and fellow Duke from New Mexico, I got to have this exceptional brew over the holidays. Not sure if this Albuquerque brewery distributes in Texas, but chances are a lot better than back in VA and NC. This stuff is outstanding so keep an eye out.

Southern Prohibition Brewing’s Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA – This Nashville brewery cranks out the perfect title game beer. We love IPA’s and it’s a breakfast tailgate. What could be better?!

Lone Star – Let’s be honest, we’re gonna enjoy some serious Texas beers, but when 7:00 a.m. Saturday rolls around and it’s really time to root, there’s only gonna be one flavor of tall-boy can rolling around the tailgate. Lone Star! And despite our usual beer elitism, when a state has its own low-end beer, we will always celebrate this fact.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Duuuuuuuukes 31, Bison 21. And everybody gets figuratively naked in Frisco!


leave a comment
  1. maddukes98 / Jan 4 2018

    So is there any consensus on where standing room only people can or cannot be? Is it basically any open space that doesn’t block a view of someone else?

  2. Seth / Jan 4 2018

    Nice analysis as always guys.

    I do think that if JMU offense just plays their game and the defense can stop the run and make them throw off schedule and on 3rd down we will see a JMU victory. If their starting corners don’t play I wouldn’t mind testing them early with Stapleton and possibly Miller if he is fully healthy. I’d also like to see some more flip passes to Alls like we saw against Weber.

    I unfortunately couldn’t make the trip down to Frisco this year but I have about 60 JMU fans coming to my snowed in house Saturday to watch in Virginia Beach. I’m strangely not nervous(yet) about this game though I know it’s the best team we’ve faced. I really do trust Houston, Schor and the rest of those kids to play like Champions, no matter the outcome.


  3. Seth / Jan 4 2018

    Also if you wanna get even more hyped for the championship game this weekend, check out this youtube playlist of hype videos and highlights I put together to follow the last incredible year for JMU football. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKyy5kJS_51NyMmNjfvoXjInqbZdhh6nE

    Relive the incredible run, from the semi final win vs NDSU last year, to winning it all vs. Youngstown, to ESPN College Gameday in Harrisonburg again, to exciting home playoff wins at Bridgeforth, and finally punching our ticket back to Frisco with win #26 in a row.

    Note I did not make any of these videos, just compiled them into a chronological playlist for your enjoyment. Works best if you have or sign up for the free month trial of youtube red/google music so you can avoid the ads.

  4. Jr / Jan 4 2018

    Dukes most definitely come out of there w the W n Trophy as Schor racks up over 300 yds n accounts for 4 scores as Dukes cruise to a 31 to 17 pt victory

  5. Rob K / Jan 5 2018

    Perhaps the most important question today: where are folks getting together in Frisco this evening?

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