JMUSB Playoff Game Preview #4: JMU vs. Youngstown St.
Youngstown St. Penguins (12-3, 6-2 MVFC) vs. #4 James Madison Dukes (13-1, 9-0 CAA) for the FCS National Championship
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas, Noon EST (that’s 11 a.m. local for those of us in TX) on ESPN2 and the WatchESPN app.
JMU Watch Party List Available Here (trust us, your city is most likely on there). Special note, will someone that attends the Greensboro party collect names and emails for me since my slack behind forgot to do so for the last one.
FEPO: JMU -8 but that line seems to have crept up higher than it should have based presumably on Dukes fans alone.
How YSU Got Here
We’re gonna bet we all know how the Dukes arrived in Frisco, but did you know that YSU is the first team since the playoffs expanded to their current configuration to make it to the final without a bye? The “‘Guins,” as their fans like to call them, hosted a decent-not-great Samford team in the first round and then had a hugely impressive upset of #3 seed Jacksonville St. down in Alabama in Round 2 (JSU looked a bit disinterested and rusty off the bye on film but who knows?). YSU caught a big break when fellow unseeded Wofford upset #6 Citadel, thus allowing YSU to return to “The Igloo” to host the Terriers in the quarters. YSU managed to keep Wofford’s triple option in check a bit and ground out an OT victory. As many more of us know, like JMU they went on the road to beat the other side of the bracket’s top seed, Eastern Washington, in the semis, winning on one of the most ridiculous last-second TD catches you’ll ever see when the Penguins backup TE managed to pin the ball against the back of the defender and keep it there for possession on the last play of the game.
While some of YSU’s good fortune on matchups in the playoffs can be nitpicked, you can’t argue with beating the 2 and 3 seeds on the road in the playoffs. Plus the Penguins three regular season losses really aren’t anything to be ashamed of (at FBS West Virginia, NDSU, and eventual 8-seed SDSU). Goes without saying anyone still playing is really tough.
How YSU Can Win
By using their huge, athletic defensive line (in particular the DE’s) to BOTH bottle up JMU’s running game and pressure/confuse Bryan Schor without having to send extra guys. Listen up Dukes, we as fans need to take YSU’s defensive front very seriously. This is a huge group coached by a veteran staff that’s had three weeks to prep just like JMU. But if they rush Schor and don’t get there in a hurry, we’ve all seen what can happen. If they run-blitz and guess wrong, we also know the last thing opposing teams want is Khalid running into your secondary. YSU will be working without both starting safeties due to similar suspensions to JMU, so if JMU can get time in the passing game or into the second level on the ground, that could be a huge factor.
On the other side, YSU has shown in the playoffs they’re capable of putting up big numbers and points. But trying to get in a shootout with the Dukes is a recipe for disaster. Just ask our old friend KC Keeler and Soft Houston St. The Penguins will likely try to reduce possessions much in the mold of their MVFC-brethren NDSU against JMU as opposed to defense-optional teams like JSU and EWU (think Withers-era JMU and #PartyInTheEndZone for those two). If they can keep the Dukes offense on the sidelines AND shut said offense down like basically nobody outside of Villanova has done all year, the Penguins can absolutely pull off the upset.
How JMU Can Win
Dance with the one who brought you. That’s pretty much the motto this week for the Dukes. Houston and the coaching staff have had the boys ready to play week in and week out all season. There’s no need to change things up now. The Dukes need to punish the Penguins with the same balanced approach they’ve used all year.
To do that though, the offensive line needs to play a high level. Youngstown’s D has racked up 47 sacks thus far this season. They managed 3 in the semifinal against Eastern Washington. JMU’s big guys up front must give Schor time and open up holes for the running game. If they do that, the offense will be just fine.
On defense, it’s all about tackling and limiting yards after contact. The Penguins have a run heavy attack, with some dynamic and shifty backs. JMU can’t let them break off big runs and get the momentum. They’re solid at QB, but don’t have the sorts of weapons in the passing game that JMU does.
In short, it’s the same as it’s been since the second half at RU. Let the players make plays on offense and play assignment football on defense. Lock the damn gates.
Beer of the Week
It’s the Natty. It’s time to go all out here. So we’re offering not one, not two, but tres suggestions for our BOTW. First up, in the Southwestern/Big8 craft beer category, it’s Prairie Bomb from Prairie Artisan Ales in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is a legendary beer we simply can’t get back east and as an espresso/chocolate/ancho-chile imperial stout, it’s pretty much perfect for a 7 a.m. tailgate. Next up, we’ve been delighted with the breakfast stout offering from Charlottesville’s fittingly named Champion Brewing, the Hogwaller Scramble. Again, what better way to start the day? But the real key to a two-day bender of celebration is learning to find a true appreciation for a state (or is it a country?), Texas, that has its very own “cheap domestic,” in this case the world-famous Lone Star. Basically, Texas takes your Bud heavy and Miller Lite and turns them into Shiner Bock and Lone Star in every bar you’ll ever walk into and instead of fighting it, just learn to love it!
Our plan as of Thursday night remains to be in Blue Lot, and we’ll definitely be parked and eating kolaches by 7:05 a.m. but follow @JMUsportsblog and the JMU Sports Blog Facebook page for updates Saturday morning. We’ll post our location to each once we’ve parked. You’re all welcome and we hope to meet many of you. We’ll have food (kolaches and sausage rolls) and drinks (mostly beer, but bottled water for the under 21 crew) until they’re gone. We’re not gonna be mad if you want to bring some stuff to share though.
Official JMUSB National Championship Game Prediction
C’mon. You really need to ask? The Dukes didn’t come this far to lay down. Schor and Abdullah pace the offense. Gage Steele and the boys keep wrecking shop on defense. The fans pop bottles and the Dukes win their second National Championship. JMU 42 – YSU 20.