The Big One: JMU v. ODU Preview
Try as we might, there’s just no denying the enormity of this weekend’s game at Bridgeforth. We’ve talked about this game and what it means seemingly forever and there are an infinite number of angles, but as Dukes fans, let’s all agree to a short moratorium on all the “future of the program/direction of the university/fire everyone/extend contracts” talk. How about we shelve the post-mortem reports from whenever you read this until whenever the season officially ends? We’re good? Alright, let’s do this. National TV (NBCSN), night game, last meaningful FCS game of the season and it’s certain the selection committee will be watching this one like a hawk, likely with multiple scenarios already gamed out for the bracket depending on the result. Bridgeforth in mid-November after a day-long chilly fall/winter tailgate!
JMU has to win to get into the playoffs. Yes, there’s a chance they could win and still not get in, but without a win here, they are out. ODU is an in-state foe that we’d hoped would be a rival for years to come, but since they’re already moving up to FBS’ CUSA next year, this may be the last matchup for quite sometime. This game carries with it bragging rights for fans across the state, especially those Dukes living in the Tidewater area.
ODU is ranked 3rd in the nation because they’re good. On offense they can be downright deadly. Maybe the best in FCS, certainly the best passing team anywhere in FCS. Their sophomore QB Taylor Heinicke is a stud who had an historical performance earlier this season against New Hampshire, though in actuality that only means he tops the list of QB’s who have had historical performances against UNH’s pass defense this year. Don’t be fooled though, Heinicke’s interceptions are up this year and the team has not clicked quite the way they did last year. Not that they aren’t capable, but last year this team looked unstoppable offensively and this season they’ve looked awfully human on occasion.
On defense, well that’s another story. Despite firing their old DC in the offseason, they have yet to stop anyone and almost always seem to keep any halfway decent team in games even while their offense keeps ringing the bell. This has been especially true at times against read-option teams.
A Note About the Crowd
Those JMU students attending this game are to be applauded. They are not to be hassled all day about why their fellow students gave up on the team and/or hightailed their sheltered little asses out of town and home to Mom’s house, thereby giving away a golden opportunity for what could be a legendary game and night in the ‘Burg. Same goes for the crowd generally. If it doens’t fill, it doesn’t fill. Yes, that sucks. But those that remain are smart, serious fans who are absolutely capable of creating all the electricity JMU needs!
Additionally, the ODU contingent is likely to be larger than any visiting team we’ve seen in the two years at New Bridgeforth. Not to sound all “get off my lawn,” but while we certainly encourage good-natured taunting, mocking, heckling, and booing, don’t teabag anyone or get arrested and ruin your life like an Alabama fan.
Beer of the Week
Well, a game this big calls for something special. So I’m hitting the retro machine and going with Colorado-based O’Dell Brewing’s 90 Shilling Ale. This was my first “favorite beer” when I first discovered there was such a thing as “good beer.” It’s a Scottish Ale with serious flavor, but at a mild 5.3% ABV, you can enjoy an extended tailgate!
Our Take and Prediction
Given the reaction on the blog this week (and we love that JMUSB has become such a great forum to talk all things Dukes!), it seems many in JMU land think there’s no chance this weekend. But here are a few things to keep in mind. First, if you remember last year’s game, JMU’s rush-only attack was unstoppable against the Monarchs before we lost THREE offensive linemen in that game. Yes, it’s an excuse, but the Dukes still probably win the game without the pre-halftime hail mary for ODU. Second, while JMU’s performance against Villanova was gag-inducing on all levels, ODU took a 10-0 lead against Nova and then gave up 38 unanswered at home, losing 38-10. Third, it seems every year, even in the “tough” years we’ve seen since ’08, JMU seems to produce one magical game at home where things just click. Last year it was the zillion-sack beatdown of Aaron Corp and then-ranked UR at homecoming. The year before, a seriously struggling JMU team put DQS at QB, completed ZERO passes for an entire game, and upset then #1 William & Mary going away. We just haven’t seen that yet this year in a game that meant something at home and to be honest, I’ll be horribly surprised if this isn’t the Dukes most inspired performance of the year. Lastly, this is 1-AA, and for those of us that have been paying attention a while can tell you, don’t bet on anything being sure at this level. So screw worrying about the playoffs, this is ODUh. So don’t forget your hats, gloves, handwarmers, and most importantly, your flasks, and get ready to send them back to Nawfuck with a heavy dose of humility before we see them again down there in three weeks!
JMU 38, ODU 35 (if that score looks familiar, you know what a huge night game at BFS is capable of producing)
Final note: Look for our new, giant purple JMUSB banner hanging from a Dukes tent on Godwin and stop by to say hi and share a beverage!