Aug 31 / Rob

JMUSB 2018 Game Preview 1: JMU vs. NC State

We can’t speak for everyone, but we are ready for some football. Thankfully, our beloved JMU Dukes are set to hit the field this weekend. That’s right, the wait is over. The 2018 college football season is upon us. Coach Mike Houston and the Dukes are ranked #2 in the FCS and are ready to come out of the gate with a big FBS game in week one. There’s no cupcake game to work out the kinks this year. Instead, JMU will face a big test against a very talented NC State team from the ACC with its own high expectations for the season. So break out your tailgating supplies, warm up your streamer throwing arm, and buckle up. It’s time to Start Wearing Purple. Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Basics

Match-up: JMU Dukes 0-0 (0-0 CAA) vs. NC State Wolfpack 0-0 (0-0 ACC)
Kick-off: 12:00 noon Saturday, 1 September in Carter Finley Stadium in lovely Raleigh, NC
Weather: High of 88 with 40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms
Broadcast: ESPNU

Getting Up to Speed on the Wolfpack

In the interest of full disclosure, like the rest of the natural world outside of the Raleigh metro area, I went back to not paying attention to NC State athletics roughly 15 minutes after Lorenzo Charles slammed it home against Phi Slamma Jamma. So bear with me while I fire up the Google machine and see what I missed. Huh. Apparently I missed, um, nothing. That night in March of 1983 was pretty much the peak. They managed to luck box their way into a ACC tourney title in 1987, but for the past few decades, it’s been a little bleak for NC State. And hoops is their good sport. The last ACC football title they won was in 1979. That was a long time ago. A gallon of gas cost 86 cents in 1979. The median price of a home in the U.S. was $71,800. It was 9 years before future Big 10 Championship winning QB Russell Wilson was even born. Long time ago folks.

We kid, but we’ve got nothing against NC State. From our vantage point, it seems like the fans are decent folks who support the Pack with plenty of passion. And they do so while surrounded by fans of the Triangle’s other ACC teams, Duke and UNC. That must be a treat. The Duke and UNC fanbases are sworn enemies bound not only by the way the snobby way they both look down on NC State, but by their complete ignorance of the fact that outsiders think they’re both insufferable. Being left out of that little douche picnic isn’t a bug State fans, it’s a feature.

Season Outlook for the WolfPack

NC State is good. The Pack have a stud QB in Ryan Finley. He’s a legit NFL prospect who will probably be playing on Sundays. He threw for 3,518 yards last season, which was second in the ACC behind only Lamar Jackson. He was selected to the All-ACC Preseason team and is probably the best QB the Dukes will have faced since Mitch Trubisky in 2016. Finley will has his top 5 receivers from last year back along with 3 starters on the offensive line. While Reggie Gallaspy is the only running back with college experience, he’s a good one. The offense could be explosive.

Defensively, the Pack lose a lot. The entire offensive line is gone (to the NFL), including absolute beast Bradley Chubb. But Head Coach Dave Doeren has an impressive track record when it comes to player development. Don’t expect the defense to fall apart. In all likelihood, it should be an effective unit.

On paper, this year’s NC State teams looks like it could be good. Perhaps very good. Good enough to be one of the better teams in school history in fact. That’s really just a kind way of saying the Pack has the potential to finish second to Clemson in the Atlantic.

Putting a Potential Upset in Perspective

On a scale of “Beating ECU Wasn’t Really an Upset” to “We’re Still Making 21-16 Jokes” this one is much closer to the latter. NC State is a well coached team. The roster is filled with tremendous athletes and a legit NFL prospect at QB. The Dukes aren’t sneaking up on anybody anymore, and unfortunately NC State didn’t play a game last Monday night. The Wolfpack will be ready for the Dukes and aren’t going to take them lightly. In short, Saturday’s game in Raleigh will be nothing like last year’s game in Greenville. The hype train will be going full speed Saturday night if (insert unknown QB1) leads the Dukes to a season opening win.

How NC State Can Win

The Pack will win if Ryan Finley can effectively spread the ball around to his receivers. JMU has some great defensive backs, but it’s not going to be easy to keep up with receivers likeĀ Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers, and Stephen Louis. Especially considering they’re all returning and already are comfortable with Finley. If he gets time to set his feet and throw, it could be a long day for the JMU defense. Expect NC State to have receivers work quick routes in the middle of the field, before taking shots deep. If the Pack passing game finds its rhythm and has the Dukes on their heels, it will open up the running game.

Line play is often the difference in these FBS vs. FCS match-ups. Last year, NC State’s line blew up holes all day against Furman as the Pack rushed for 242 yards and 5 TDs. JMU might be breaking in a lot of new d-linemen, but they’re bigger and more athletic than those on many FCS teams. However, depth might become a difference late in the second half, when players get tired.

How JMU Can Win

Everyone is talking about the QB situation for JMU, or lack of a known starting QB to be precise. But we think it’s all about the defense in this one. JMU will win if the defensive line can apply pressure and hit Finley all game. He is a confident and crisp passer when he can stand in the pocket and view the field. JMU needs to hit him early and often to make him uncomfortable. Any decent QB can be effective if he faces no pressure. Finley is far more than a decent QB. He’ll pick defenses apart if given time. But if he’s running for his life or struggling to get set, things will be much easier for JMU. And you can ignore the FCS vs. FBS distinction when it comes to Jimmy Effin’ Moreland or the other JMU d-backs jumping bad passes, because they’ll make QBs pay for mistakes. Hit Finley. Hit him again. Ruin his timing. Repeat.

On offense, the Dukes just need to take care of the ball. We don’t know who’s lining up behind center, but whomever it is will have weapons to work with. JMU doesn’t need to play conservative, but the Dukes need to play smart. Establish the run. Find some receivers in the flats. Move the chains. Bust one over the top to Riley Stapleton. It all seems so easy when we type it.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Hmm. We’ve been mocked for the fact that our BOTW selections are almost always IPAs. In our defense though, have you been to a bottle shop lately? Most are 75% IPAs, just broken down by session, New England, West Coast, etc. While we do love ourselves both fruit bombs and resiny ales, let’s keep it simple this week. We’ll go with one of my all time favorites, Brooklyn Lager. Yeah, it’s a beer that won’t wow anyone at a bottle-share, and definitely won’t show up on any hipster beer lists. But I don’t care. It’s a damn tasty beer. And it’s a 12 noon kickoff! You need a low key, sessionable brew. Plus, I once chatted with Garrett Oliver as he served me beers and he was super chill.

Official JMUSB Prediction

This is tough, tough game for the Dukes. NC State is a team with “second place in the Atlantic Division” dreams, and the talent to make them happen. Ryan Finley is the truth. We don’t even know who JMU’s QB will be. NC State lost 7 guys to the NFL last year. JMU needs is replacing 7 starters from the program’s best defense ever. There are a lot of unknowns, but NC State should win. Pretty much everyone in the college football world is picking NC State to win. NC State won’t win. The Dukes defense ruins Finley’s day, JMU QB TBD takes care of the ball, the running game goes off, and the Dukes win. JMU 21 – NC State 16.



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  1. Drake / Aug 31 2018

    Solid beer choice. A 12pm start and throwing back double IPAs is a quick way to end your night early.

  2. Sean / Aug 31 2018

    GREAT score prediction, great slighting of NC State. State is the only P5 program to not win a conference or national title in football, MBB or WBB, WSOC or MSOC, or baseball since the 90’s. Literally the least successful P5 program in the country.

  3. E-Dub / Aug 31 2018

    As always, a fine preview. And from someone who’s resided in Raleigh for the past 15 years, kudos on an extremely accurate portrayal of the NC State fanbase. I would add that like all fanbases, there are some crazies who grossly overestimate their relevance, particularly in basketball, but by and large they are content with hating UNC, not acknowledging Duke except to roll with them when Duke beats UNC in basketball, and their general lot in life in the ACC.

    Also, I can’t honestly comment on the preview without saying that “douche picnic” is first-ballot HOF stuff and is about to enter my insult lexicon. I just need to find the context – perhaps as a comment to an Insta picture of Justin Bieber and Harry Styles at Starbucks?

    All this said, we’re coming to win. I see ColeBen JohnsoNucci doing enough in the passing game and with RPOs to set up our stable of 47 stud backs to do what they do and keep NC State’s offense off the field. I will concede that Ryan Finley is an NFL-level talent but to me, he’s the second coming of Mike Glennon and not Russell Wilson. A walk-in freezer has more mobility than that dude and if we can get at him consistently we can slow him down. Plus, he simply doesn’t have the weapons in the backfield (Hines and Samuels, both of whom are going to make NFL rosters) that he did last year.

    I put $21.16 worth of gas in my car this week, but I don’t see us winning that comfortably. Therefore, my prediction is 21-17 Dukes. Regardless, I can’t wait!

  4. 2004 Duke / Aug 31 2018

    Pulling for the Dukes as always, but 1) NCSU being really good, 2) not having a QB1, and 3) breaking in a new defense….I think this game is going to be ugly for us.

  5. spatton80 / Aug 31 2018

    I waited a while to write in after last year’s Championship game but with the slew of great running backs we have… not only does the OL have to play a great game but our receivers need to BLOCK downfield. If anyone re-watches last year’s Championship on one particular play at the end of the game one receiver’s block ( not naming any names ) was completely missed downfield… his block at the point of attack would have won that game for us…so every player on every play has to give their all…you can’t take a play off just cause you just caught a pass if your tired take yourself out…make the block! Go Dukes!!! Got to beat the Pack… one of my best friends been in my ear for 30 years about what they would do to us if we ever played…

  6. OBXDuke1983 / Sep 1 2018

    Nice drive for the first score.
    Go Dukes!

  7. OBXDuke1983 / Sep 1 2018

    Where is Rashard Robinson?

  8. Rob / Sep 1 2018

    Out for the season. Had surgery for turf toe this week. Houston announced it just before the game. He’s gonna redshirt and play next year though.

  9. OBXDuke1983 / Sep 1 2018

    Oh that is tough.
    He is really being missed in this game.

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