Nov 16 / Todd

JMUSB Game Preview #11: JMU @ Elon

The Basics

#1 James Madison Dukes (10-0, 7-0 CAA) at #15 Elon Phoenix (8-2, 6-1 CAA), Noon Saturday, Rhodes Stadium, Elon, NC

Coverage: MadiZone though it’ll be Elon’s announcers. Still likely a way better product than that College Sports Live junk we saw a few weeks ago.

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, High 63, Low 41 (for the early tailgating crowd), winds 10-20 mph. Good news is the rain forecasted earlier in the week seems likely to hold off till overnight and this should be a fairly standard fall day in the Piedmont.

Tailgating and PreGame: The Triangle Duke Club is hosting an official pregame event at 10:00 a.m. at The Fat Frogg, which I can tell you from knowing the area is actually a pretty cool spot for an event like this. By Burlington/Elon standards, Fat Frogg’s is one of the rowdier live music venues at night but has tons of arcade-type games and really is pretty solid for families early on a Saturday morning. If you’re looking for an earlier arrival and to be a bit closer to the stadium, Elon is very tailgate-friendly, particularly by the staid standards of most CAA schools. Like JMU, the lots closest to the stadium are for season ticket holders, but the cool thing about Elon is there is really only one main cash ($10) tailgating lot (McMichael) so it won’t be hard to find the other Dukes fans. The lot is sort of divided into two sections, but distance-to-the-stadium-wise think of it as coming from the baseball or Hillside lots at JMU. In other words, an easy walk through campus. Hope to see lots of Dukes out there Saturday morning!

What’s at Stake?

The CAA title – Technically JMU would likely finish in a three-way tie with Stony Brook and Elon with a loss AND still claim the automatic bid in the playoffs (if SB wins too over Maine), but Elon could win a share and obviously JMU wants to win this the sporting way. This would also be the first time in school history the Dukes would have won three CAA titles in a row (though they shared the title in 2015).

The #1 Overall Seed in the FCS – Can’t stress enough how huge this is now that the Dukes are so close to achieving this goal. This would mean the Dukes get to host games at Bridgeforth all the way to Frisco. A) That’s awesome, B) that means we’re likely to get at least one of those huge out-of-conference matchups we all clamor for, and c) the Dukes get to choose their uni combos all the way through. Holiday parties, office gatherings, and family be damned, clear the first three weekends in December for

JMU’s second unbeaten season ever – Only a 9-0-1 season way way back in 1975 can even rival this year’s run. The Dukes would also become the first current CAA member to have three 8-0 CAA seasons and join some ancient UMass squad as the only teams to run the table two years in a row in the CAA. A win here would also keep alive the possibility of joining only five other FCS teams that ever one the national championship in an undefeated season.

Individual Records – IF, IF JMU can make a deep run in the playoffs there may be a handful of individual records still to fall this season, particularly by Bryan Schor, but the only one realistically in reach this weekend is Safety Raven Greene, who is one behind a three-way tie for the JMU mark for career interceptions.

Historic Defensive Numbers – JMU’s Defense leads the nation in just about every important defensive category, but when Alabama gave up 24 in a scare against Miss. St. last weekend, the Dukes became the only team at the D1 level still holding opponents under 10 points per game at 9.6. Needless to say, if they can do it again this weekend, that’s a season for the ages.

How Elon Can Win?

Let the hatemail flow but this is and always will be Elon!

Run the ball and control the clock on offense, limit their own mistakes, and stop the run/pressure Schor with their stout front seven on D. Elon runs the ball and stops the run well. They’ve played basically even with opponents in all statistical categories but their ability to control tempo and dictate the game has served them well all year. The front seven on defense is big and solid and this will be a real marker for the Dukes to determine whether that exquisite last drive against the Ticks was the running game turning the corner or if there’s still cause for major concern.

One thing Elon cannot do in this game is make mistakes. They’ve physically been the better team most times out this season but man have they been mistake-prone thus keeping so many games close. Heck, even two years ago when JMU destroyed them 51-0 you could see there was the beginnings of a talent pool that just had no idea what it was doing. Coach Cignetti has turned things around and has them believing in their own ability, but they’ve made every mental mistake you can name at some point this year – ill-timed turnovers, shanked punts, missed kicks, etc. – and that is something nobody in the country can afford against the Dukes. If Elon plays a clean game, they have the talent to hang with the Dukes. If they play a clean game and limit JMU’s possessions by controlling the clock, the Phoenix are capable of winning their first CAA title.

How JMU Can Win?

Limit mistakes and big plays and run the ball at least effectively. That Schor fumble against Richmond last week was the kind of killer mistake that we just haven’t seen often under Coach Houston. Same goes for the personal foul penalties. The Dukes defense bailed them out and the team has often been so much better talent-wise that they haven’t had to worry about overcoming these daggers. But Elon is 8-2 for a reason no matter the manner in which they’ve achieved that record and this week JMU cannot afford these lapses.

On offense, the Dukes need to find a way to run the ball “effectively” even if they aren’t the runaway freight train of last year. A single yard or no gain on first down is simply not good enough. 3rd and 9 cannot be the norm. They don’t have to gash the defense on every play, but 4-5 positive yards and staying on schedule to keep the other team guessing is mandatory. We haven’t seen all the playmakers (Alls, Hyman, Stapleton, Miller, Kloo) on the outside have space that often this year because JMU’s been forced to look their way when opponent’s know what’s coming. Think of all those 2nd or 3rd and short plays where Schor found Domo Taylor or Rashard Davis down the field last year because it was unexpected. The Dukes need to find that rhythm again and no better time than when a title’s on the line and the playoffs are looming!

Defense needs to just play the way they have all year.

Don’t Forget the FCS Playoff Selection Show

Win or lose, we’ll all get to see our three favorite letters discussed and thrown up in the 2017 Playoff Bracket this Sunday morning. The FCS Selection Show airs at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the lack of knowledge of all the commentators (except Anish Shroff of course) and former Howard QB and MEAC homer Jay Howard hijacking the show with complaints about his alma mater being snubbed.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Dad Fuel Helles Lager from Steel String Brewing in Carrboro, NC. We had to go with a local-ish selection for those making the trip to the Old North State this weekend and Carrboro, which is about 30 minutes from Elon right next to Chapel Hill, is a funky town with great food and beverage options. This hoppy pale lager is exactly what is says, fuel for dads, and is a light, easy-drinking only 5.1%ABV that works great for a morning tailgate and a noon game.

And for those of you who indulged our condiment ramblings on the podcast this week and want to check out Himihead Sauce or the cool little hamlet of Saxapahaw, here’s some more information.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Dukes drop the hammer! JMU 41, Elon 14

One Comment

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  1. wexcelsior / Nov 17 2017

    Having lived in Chapel Hill since graduating, I wholeheartedly recommend anyone making the trip take the time to stop in Carrboro for dinner and some brew. Of course, Haw River Farmhouse Ales and The Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw are also fantastic and a few minutes closer.

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