Dec 12 / Todd

2019 Quarterfinals Preview: UNI at JMU

The Basics

Matchup: #6 Northern Iowa Panthers (10-4, 6-2 MVFC) at #2 JMU Dukes (12-1, 8-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. Friday, Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, VA

Weather: As rough as it gets. Seriously, pretty sure we can all agree that 29 and snowing would even be way preferable to 35 and raining, but here we are. The good news is that we don’t think the heavy stuff is going to come down for a few more hours!

Broadcast: ESPN2 – with the very solid Anish Shroff on the call.

Boys in the Desert: JMU – 19.5 O/U 47, ML -1250. This line has gone up all week and seems inflated based on the dummy public underrating of UNI. In any case, the high spread doesn’t match the money line so stay away.

A Bit About Northern Iowa

A regional public in the Cedar-Falls/Waterloo area, UNI is about the same size JMU was 25 years ago with just over 10,000 students. And similar to JMU, they began as the “Iowa State Normal School” and then the “Iowa State Teachers College.”

They play in the very cool “UNI-Dome.” Oddly, they’ve been a 1-AA/FCS powerhouse since just about the time JMU became one – losing the title game in ’05 to App. St. and spending most of ’07 at #1. But the teams have never met before. As we all know, Kurt Warner led the Panthers before his HOF career in the NFL. Like JMU, UNI is fairly well-rounded with their Athletics’ program, frequently near the top of Valley’s strong hoops’ conference and having authored a memorable upset of Kansas in the big dance a few years back. And like seemingly all Iowans, they care more than anyone else about wrestling, where they compete in the Big 12 with some of the true big boys of the sport.

Finally, for the old-heads on the message boards, one unfortunate fact is that UNI has one of the single-worst posters on the internet. He makes Soft Houston’s PodKnows look alright. He’s really right on par with ODuh’s Razor and the guy who almost ruined Montana’s whole program in terms of being a true ignorant douche-canoe. It sucks cause otherwise their fans seem pretty cool and it’s always hard to believe in FCS when one guy spoils a whole community’s opinion of a fanbase.

How UNI Can Win

The Panthers need to ride their legit Top-10 defense and the bad weather to an ugly win. Really it’s the same blueprint they followed last week when they recovered from a slow start and just generally mucked up the game in upsetting South Dakota St. 13-10 on the road. Even in the first round, they basically followed that script when they suffocated San Diego’s high-flying offense in a 17-3 snoozer.

UNI created turnovers in both games, most notably what became the game-winning pick six in their first rounder against the Toreros, and they’ll likely need to so again. Their 7th ranked Defense has given up just 10 points or less in six of their last seven contests.

On offense though, the Panthers have scored 30 just three times all year and scraped out 20 only once in their last five after losing so many of their weapons to injury. Pre-season All-American TE Briley Moore has been out since Week 1 when he was hurt at Iowa St. (though notably he could return this week and still redshirt). Top RB Hoosman has been missing for some time. And they lost top WR Isaiah Weston last week (questionable for this week). But they’ve been grinding the clock with Senior RB Trevor Allen and elusive r-Fr. QB Will McElvain. Nothing explosive – especially if they’re without Weston – but UNI has shown they’re capable of surviving.

How JMU Can Win

Protect the football. Hate to simplify this too much and really don’t mean to disrespect a gritty UNI team that has played arguably the toughest schedule in the country (Weber and Iowa St. out of conference plus NDSU, SDSU (2x), and ISU in the Valley. But they can’t score. And they’re massively banged up on offense. And JMU doesn’t haven’t anyone suspended (yet) for targeting this week. As good as UNI’s defense has been, it’s going to take more than 13 points, maybe considerably more, to beat the Dukes in BFS. If the Dukes protect the football, they should win this game. Forget the weather and handle their business and JMU will be back with better weather and a way better crowd a week from now. Really the best thing the Dukes beyond taking care of the ball is show just how dominant they are capable of being on the defensive side against what could be an overmatched unit in that matchup.

Beer of the Week

Bourbon. Cold. Dark. Perfect. Nuff said.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 30, UNI 9

Ugly. Ruthlessly effective.


leave a comment
  1. Rob K / Dec 13 2019

    While the weather can always throw things up for grabs, I’m pretty confident for this game. JMU has faced plenty of top defenses this year, and done very well against all of them.

    I agree about the point about turnovers. The ball will be wet and slick with the rain. But as long as we can hold on and not turn it over, we should be able to take this one.

  2. Deacon Danny / Dec 13 2019

    Let’s go Dukes!

  3. wexcelsior / Dec 13 2019

    This feels really similar to the UNH game to me. Really strong defense on the other side, but no offense to speak of, and we all know how that game went. Of course, weather can be the great equalizer and of course you never know what’s going to happen in the playoffs.

  4. CJ / Dec 13 2019

    Can I just say that I think JMU playoff football in December is one of my favorite sporting events of the year? I’m pretty stoked about this game.

    However, I’m not nearly as confidently optimistic as everyone else seems to be on this blog. JMU is the better team on paper and all indications suggest they should win. But the Dukes can’t sleepwalk through this one, they need to be focused and on their game from the first play and through all four quarters. Northern Iowa is a VERY good team, do not overlook them. We all remember how Weber State came into Bridgeforth on a Friday night a few years ago and nearly (and probably should have) beat us. Bad weather + an inspired UNI team + a lazy Dukes defense is a recipe for disaster for JMU. Seriously…from here on out we are playing the best of the best, these games will really measure our worth for taking on NDSU in Frisco.

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