Nov 23 / Todd

# 23 Coastal Carolina @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #11 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: #23 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) at JMU Dukes (7-3, 5-2 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: Noon EST. Saturday, November 26, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Partly Sunny. High 56.

Broadcast: ESPNU (National U Doubleheader treatment for the SBC)

Boys in the Desert: JMU -14, O/U 54 (this is wild to us but might as well roll with it!)

How We Got Here

The Dukes fumbled 17 billion times last week, but otherwise looked a hell of a lot healthier than they’ve been since early October in another 20-point comeback to end Georgia State’s bowl hopes and set up this Sun Belt East Title Game. Plus we have to think they’ll be primed to send out a decorated and meaningful senior class (Percy, Kyle Davis, KT, Ukwu, Ravenel, Kidd, Painter, etc.). JMU is 7-3 in their first full season in FBS and a win Saturday would mean they win the Sun Belt East. No matter what the rules or technicalities say, everyone would know (but mainly Coastal would know) who the real champs are and who really belongs in the Sun Belt Title game with Troy next week. And what better way to wind up this magical first-FBS season than having Brideforth welcome a ranked team for the first time ever!

Coastal had an unexpected bye week for the worst reason imaginable as their scheduled trip to Charlottesville to take on the Cavaliers was cancelled. Prior to that they survived their game without QB1 Grayson McCall with a 26-23 win over Southern Miss. Not unlike the Dukes, Coastal has been a study in how a winning program culture can sometimes carry you even when the matchups don’t seem in your favor. They’ve survived all year and won close game after close game even though it seems they don’t quite have the talent or the edge they did during the last two seasons. After all of that they stand at 9-1, ranked 23rd, and with an outside shot at a New Year’s Six bowl depending on results in the AAC.

How Coastal Can Win

Hang in the game long enough defensively to allow their insanely creative offense to confuse JMU’s young and transitioning defense. The Chants’ defense has been…meh. They give up 27 points a game and have only held one team under 21 all season. They give up 400 yards per game. But they have been opportunistic with almost as many sacks and turnovers forced as JMU. In other words, they aren’t good but they’re often complimentary to Head Coach Jamey Chadwell’s extremely creative offense. Is it option? Is it spread? Is it pistol? It’s sort of all of them and it averages 32 points and nearly 430 yards per game. With JMU playing more and more youth on defense right now, we’ve seen the Dukes give up some long broken plays the last few weeks and Coastal seems capable of finding a few of those too.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t beat themselves. Step 1 of this is “don’t fumble every other play.” But Step 2 requires the Dukes to handle the emotions of this week. It’s essentially JMU’s bowl game, we all know the real stakes, it’s a ranked team at BFS, it’s a blackout game with fancy unis, it’s an important Senior Day, and it’s unusual for JMU in that it’s a finite last game. In other words, chances are the Dukes will come out sky-high. Early on they need to use that emotion to do their individual jobs and not try to do too much. If there’s adversity (like last week), they also need to not let the emotion and the ending of this season overwhelm them into frustration.

But beyond that, JMU with a healthy Centeio is simply better than Coastal without Grayson McCall. With the exception of Reggie Brown, the Dukes’ offense is relatively healthy and has certainly looked as dangerous again the last two weeks as it did during the heady early season. Chadwell wasn’t playing games when he noted in this week’s presser that JMU’s O-Line is the best they’ve seen all year. And if JMU’s defense can stick to their assignments and stay home against misdirection, we’ve seen what the Dukes are capable of against teams that struggle in the passing game and have to stay on the ground against Ukwu, Edwards, Carp, and co.

Historical Footnote

JMUSB Beer of the Week

We had another beer here, but if you don’t know why we’re now going with Atrevida Beer Co’s Christopher Street Pale Ale, you really should read this story about a helper/hero that would make even Fred Rogers smile. Plus, who doesn’t love a hoppy Pale (instead of an IPA, think Blue Mountain’s Full Nelson)?

Official JMUSB Prediction

Beach chickens. Basically the Delaware of the Sun Belt. Already crowing about “winning” and “clinching” the Sun Belt East when the real ones will know the truth come late afternoon Saturday.

JMU 38, Coastal 13

Nov 17 / Todd

Georgia St. @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #10 Preview

Running Back Kaelon Black carries the ball against Appalachian State
Feed the RB’s!

The Basics

Matchup: Georgia State Panthers (4-6, 3-3 Sun Belt) at JMU Dukes (6-3, 4-2 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, November 19, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Sunny. High 42. Season has changed; plan accordingly.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -9.5, O/U 53

How We Got Here

Even with injuries continuing to cause problems, the Dukes looked considerably closer to their high-flying selves in Norfolk last week with the healthy return of huge contributors like Tackle Nick Kidwell, Linebacker Jailyn Walker, and QB1 looking like normal (tbd after the ankle last week though).

Georgia State on the other hand is the most Jekyll-and-Hyde team the Dukes have seen all year. Take a look at their progression through the schedule and tell us what to make of it:

35-14 L @ South Carolina (expected), 35-28 L vs. UNC (strong showing), 42-41 L vs. Charlotte (WTF?!), 41-24 L vs. Coastal (maybe about right but now they’re 0-4), 31-14 W @ Army (proud showing), 41-33 W vs. Georgia Southern (definitely not mailing it in yet), 42-17 L @ App (bad performance against an overrated team), 31-17 W vs. ODU (happy times for Homecoming as injuries start to mount for the Monarchs), 42-14 W @ Southern Miss (hell yes, the traditional late-season-push is on from the Panthers and almost back to .500), 31-28 L vs. UL Monroe (WTH? at home?!)

As you can tell, there is simply no consistent narrative that makes the Panthers’ campaign make any sense. But they’ve got two games left and need two wins to get back to .500 and become bowl eligible. Is that motivation enough to play well on a cold day in the Valley?

How Georgia State Can Win

Play one of their good games and ride a balanced offense to win a high-scoring affair. Georgia St. has strong athletes on defense, but let’s be realistic – the only teams they’ve held below 24 points in 9 games so far are run-ONLY teams Army and Southern Miss who each still managed 14 points and offensively-limited ODU who got to 17. They generously gave up 40 plus to App, Coastal, and Charlotte (seriously, Charlotte). The Panthers average 30 points a game. They also give up 30 points a game. They simply have to keep scoring and hope the Dukes make the kind of mistakes that cost them the Ga. Southern game.

QB Darren Grainger is the best true dual-threat QB that JMU has seen yet. He’s coming off a game where he threw for 349 and rushed for 81 on a substantial 17 carries. Receiver Jamari Thrash has been a standout all year and RB Marcus Carroll is solid all-around. That offense better come to play these last couple weeks as Georgia State heads north to the mountains in both weeks to JMU and Marshall, two teams that play a bit of defense.

How JMU Can Win

Be smart (maybe even cautious?) on offense and swallow up any will to win on defense. If JMU can play the kind of defense we’ve come to expect this week – largely shutting down the run game and making a few plays on the back end – this could be a rude awakening for the Panthers. It’s going to be a chilly 40-ish degrees (Dukes fans know the difference between 40 in NoVa or RVA and 40 in the ‘Burg) and the Dukes should be charged back up after righting the ship last week.

Offensively, JMU just needs to be crisp and relatively mistake-free. Georgia State’s track record is clear that competent teams will get to the 30’s and if the Dukes can avoid turnovers, feed the backfield trio and take what’s there, there’s zero reason to think they won’t do the same. If Centeio is limited at all after appearing to sprain an ankle last week, that will be even more reason to lean on the running backs and the short passing game (could we see more WR screens to Thornton and Ravenel again?).

Historical Footnote

This will be JMU’s second time playing (and hosting) Georgia St. The Panthers spent one season in 2012 in the CAA before bolting for the Sun Belt. The Dukes won that game 28-21 at Bridgeforth in one of the bash-your-head-in Mickey-iest games ever. Michael Birdsong was making his first collegiate start, and his only one that season, after Justin Thorpe had been injured the previous week at Bridgeforth East. Birdsong was predictably bad in that offense that day and the Dukes hammered it with the only offensive sparkplug of the late-era Mickey days, Dae’Quan Scott who went for 130 on 25 carries. We remember being at the game and before it was even over discussing how it was going to be one of the most forgettable games we would ever have been at and that thought has aged well (or aged poorly depending on your perspective). Here’s to starting fresh with a Georgia St. team that could end up being more of a rival than we realize over the next decade in both football and hoops.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Skipping Rock Roasted Pecan Brown English Brown Ale – You may not realize it, but Staunton’s Skipping Rock has bought out Pale Fire and that makes our old friends in the ‘burg worth re-visiting these days. Not only do they finally have tv’s now where you can actually watch the game, but they also kept the better beers but have started brewing in a way that won’t leave your gut a mess the next morning. Oh yeah, and Skipping Rock has been turning out a solid lineup for a while. This time of year is perfect for this almost smoky brown ale. Plus, they’re doing things up and down the Valley as they’re opening another small satellite tasting room under the Pale Fire name in Basye just outside the entrance to Bryce Resort – think the original Devil’s Backbone circa 2011 before all the AB/InBev nonsense.

Official JMUSB Prediction

ATL kids headed north on a cold, windy day with the sweet smell of butchered poultry flying up and down 81 for Thanksgiving next week. What could go wrong? Everything!

JMU 38, Georgia St. 17

Nov 11 / Todd

JMU @ ODU: Official JMUSB Game #9 Preview

Homecoming for Kaelon this week

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (5-3, 3-2 Sun Belt) at Old Dominion Monarchs (3-6, 2-3 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, November 12, 2022, S.B. Ballard Stadium (The Oyster Bowl), Norfolk, VA

Weather: Partly cloudy, 75. Winds 10-15. Pretty darned perfect for November ball.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -7.5, O/U 46.5

How We Got Here

Both teams seasons have mirrored each other a good bit. A month ago both teams were on top of the world about their first season in the Sun Belt (well, in ODU’s case their first season back in the Sun Belt). ODU was only 3-3 at the time but coming off a blowout win down at Coastal, sitting on top of the East at 2-0, and they’d played an out of conference schedule to that point that was exactly what fans had always dreamed of since they’d gone FBS a decade ago. They had opened with the HOME win over the Hokies, lost a game they should’ve won at UVA, and played relatively competitive games against strong ECU and Liberty teams.

How ODU Can Win

Score points and throw the ball to Ali Jennings. “Score points” sounds stupid but ODU lost 12-0 to Marshall last week so, you know, scoring points would help. The Monarch’s defense has been…fine. It’s not exceptional at anything but it’s been opportunistic at times creating turnovers and good enough all year to keep them in games and give them a chance against an objectively strong schedule. But offensively, ODU has one of the nation’s best, and most overlooked, players in receiver Ali Jennings III. Sometimes he personally is the offense for the Monarchs, and he’s so good that often that’s enough. Through ODU’s first seven games, he led them in receiving every game and never had less than 87 yards. Five of the seven he was well over 100 yards and he had a staggering 200 down at ECU. Then the last two weeks, Georgia State and Marshall held him to 7 catches and 60 yards combined and the Monarchs scored a total of 17 points after being shut out by the Herd. But with JMU’s youth and inexperience at corner, not to mention suspect tackling of late across the back end, Jennings must be licking his chops for this one. If ODU can slow down JMU’s pass rush enough, things could get real ugly for JMU’s banged up secondary.

How JMU Can Win

Get to the QB and rediscover their offense. Defensively, this is rather simple. Unless JMU is suddenly changing up its whole gameplan and philosophy by playing more zone or soft coverage, we all know what the equation is for success. Against this team, and a player like Jennings, the Dukes pass rush simply has to get home on ODU QB Hayden Wolff. If the Dukes crank this up like we’ve seen them do in situations like this before (remember “the Hoodie” game against the Ticks and the glorious Soft Houston night?), the Monarchs don’t appear to have many other options.

Offensively, the Dukes need to get back to what made them successful earlier this year. The RPO game needs to return to the middle routes and get away from simply “chuck it down the sideline and hope.” WR screens, jet sweeps, and power run all have chances against a defense that’s been exposed in the running game a few times lately. While the Centeio and Kidwell injuries have grabbed all the headlines the last few weeks, the quiet truth is the offense is actually in better health at this point than the Dukes ravaged defense.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Commonwealth Brewing’s Papi Chulo IPA. Yes, Commonwealth remains frustratingly overpriced most places in the state. But this one is so good, it comes in purple cans, and it’s from Virginia Beach. Just too spot-on to pass up for this week’s trip.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Whispers this week say Rob may have been a little too accurate in his comments regarding JMU’s approach to last week’s Louisville game on Monday’s pod. Our guess here is Toddy TD and his line look a lot healthier this week and we see a whole lot more of the offense that made us all giddy earlier in the year. That said, this is the renewal of what seems destined to be a massive rivalry and it’s hard to see either team letting it get totally away from them early. The Monarchs are going to find Jennings and the Dukes are going to struggle to stop him. But JMU simply has more weapons and options as both teams adjust. Plus, after all of the fun craziness of the first five weeks, we’re exactly where we thought we’d be when the move to the Sun belt was announced. JMU is 5-3 and ODU is 3-6 and the national spotlight will be lightyears away from Norfolk this week. But for these two teams, and these two fanbases, this is still a HUGE game. It’s sold out, it’s ODU’s Oyster Bowl week, and it just means so much more than any FCS game did in years. For the Monarchs, they have to win to keep bowl hopes alive. For the Dukes, they have to get the “never beaten ODU” monkey off their backs. For both teams, this will set a tone for recruiting battles, program momentum, and offseason vibes. At it’s core, it’s one of those November Saturdays that make college football the absolute best. It doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else when it means everything to those involved.

JMU 27, ODU 20

Nov 4 / Todd

JMU @ Louisville: Official JMUSB Game #8 Preview

Feed this man!

The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (5-2, 3-2 Sun Belt) at Louisville Cardinals (5-3, 3-3 ACC)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. EDT. Saturday, November 5, 2022, Cardinal Stadium, Louisville, Kentucky

Weather: Chance of showers, temps around 60

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: Louisville -7.5, O/U 55 (opened at Cards by 10 so make of that what you will)

How We Got Here

The good vibes coaster in Harrisonburg has been in the shop for almost a month with broken parts. After winning their first five and becoming the first FBS newbie to ever be ranked in the AP Top 25, humility has returned the favor. The Dukes lost a heartbreaker in Statesboro, then lost QB1 Todd Centeio on the day before Homecoming and both tackles in a directionless learning experience against Marshall. They’ve had a MUCH-needed bye week to hopefully heal up, or at least get Billy Atkins and the backups on the line some proper work to prepare.

Louisville has been one of the weirdest and most inconsistent teams in the nation. Not bad, and a high ceiling, but just strange. They’ve managed to lose to Boston College but just blew the doors off a then-#10 Wake Forest this past week. National and Local media have been on hot-seat watch for Coach Scott Satterfield seemingly forever, but really the Cards have so far come through a strange season about where most would’ve predicted and had arguably their two best results the last two weeks.

How Louisville Can Win

Two ways. The first is simple: Todd Centeio and some combination of his two offensive tackles Tyshawn Wyatt and Nick Kidwell don’t play. But assuming at least two, and hopefully three, of those guys play, the Cards will need to work to win this. The second way is jumping out early and taking away any hope from the underdog Dukes. QB Malik Cunningham has been rumored to be the heir to the Lamar Jackson crown in Louisville for a couple of years, but so far only his running legs have been close to replicating the Ravens’ stars’ college days. The Cards have been inconsistent in the passing game all year and have had to rely on Cunningham getting outside and their defense, which has been a pressure-creating machine that has produced a few huge games in the turnover department. Last week Louisville forced EIGHT turnovers by the vaunted Deacons offense, including six in the runaway locomotive third quarter leading to 35 points in that frame to turn a tight game into a shocking blowout.

The other major factor for Louisville is not to overlook the Dukes (no matter who the QB1 is in purple). With a finishing stretch of Clemson, NC State, and rival Kentucky left after this, they need to avoid this trap that could turn a reasonably alright 5-3 into a 5-7 and a new coaching staff right quick.

How JMU Can Win

Hang in there early. Against this defense, JMU simply can’t afford to fall too far behind in first half and let the pass rush get into it. Controlling the clock and stealing any energy in Louisville’s crowd on a soggy night, at least early, will really help the Dukes regain their own belief and set up the passing game later. There will absolutely be chances for Brown, Green, and KT but we’d like to see JMU be conservative on those early.

Big plays. With two weeks to prepare, we’re certainly optimistic that the Dukes will have a few of the special things we saw the last time they had a bye (App St.). Not necessarily true “gimmicks,” but the double-move we saw to Green must’ve been a CB weakness noticed on film along with that weird two-point play that somehow ended up with a wide open Kris Thornton. That kind of preparation from Cignetti, Shanahan, and co. (especially if it’s Atkins and/or Barnett) could be key against an opponent that may be overlooking our boys.

A little luck wouldn’t hurt either. The announcement that JMU will playing in their “championship” uni set of White/Purple/White for the first time ever in a true road game, maybe things are starting to come up Millhouse again all of a sudden! In general, being on the positive side of the turnover margin for the first time in a few games would go a long way this week.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Beer?! You must be kidding. The Dukes are finally making the trip to the heart of Kentucky’s best asset, its Bourbon Trail! And this week calls for something special, but still relatively accessible. We’re going with Angel’s Envy, as apparently it’s the “beer” of choice in-stadium as a major sponsor in Cardinals Stadium. It’s a great introduction when you’re making a half-step up in quality and price because it’s definitely on the mellower/lighter end of the spectrum. It’s also one of our “available” favorites (meaning you have a reasonable chance of scoring some at your local ABC store without the need for miracles or “knowing a guy”) alongside Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, many of the special offerings from Four Roses, and our absolute old standby, Woodford Reserve. But with a 7:30 kick on national tv (ESPNU) and unseasonably warm weather predicted back here in the Commonwealth, you can find something even more special from the Bluegrass State if that’s your thing and fire it up around your fire pit, at a watch party, or right in the JMU tailgate section at the stadium. Don’t drive, but otherwise this game’s kickoff time and exciting opponent don’t exactly call for too much responsibility. Sometimes even excess is good in moderation, particularly when it happens to be the one night you get an extra hour to sleep!

Official JMUSB Prediction

These Dukes ain’t done. It’s gonna take some good fortune for the Centeio/Wyatt/Kidwell/Walker foursome to all be out there and to all make it through this one upright, but after a crummy month, the sun feels like it’s due to shine on the Dukes again. Overlooked underdogs is the role JMU has performed best in (see MTSU, App) this year and now the boys in purple are back there. Make no mistake, Louisville is the most talented roster JMU will face all year and very few results would be worth getting upset or making bold pronouncements about the program for. But even with that bit of hedging, we LOVE the Dukes to find their belief, spark, and crispness of execution again after the bye and put the Sun Belt back in the national conversation for a showing out against a fancier conference’s team.

JMU 31, Louisville 30 (Wise at the buzzer FTW)

Oct 21 / Todd

Marshall @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #7 Preview

Let’s get this resiliency back again this week!

The Basics

Matchup: Marshall Thundering Herd (3-3, 0-2 Sun Belt) at JMU Dukes (5-1, 3-1 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EDT. Saturday, October 22, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, The ‘burg

Weather: Sunny, warm, still a tad humid. 71. But cold early and late so get the options/layer ready.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -13, O/U 53.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes are 5-1 and have fallen out of the AP poll but despite last week’s crash landing are still very much a balanced and complete team that still has the nation’s best rush defense and a dynamic offense.

The Herd has(have?) been one of the weirdest teams to figure out this year. They have THAT win, an unforgettable 26-21 win over Notre Dame in South Bend back in the Sun Belt’s wild Week 2. Otherwise, they have two FCS wins; one a 28-7 affair that was closer than that score reflects against Gardner-Webb and the other a JMU-esque 55-3 drubbing of Norfolk St. Then they have three BAD losses. They followed up the ND triumph with a gag-inducing 34-31 OT loss to a putrid Bowling Green team. They’ve only played two Sun Belt games to date, a 16-7 loss at Troy and last week’s weird weather-effected 23-13 Wednesday night 23-13 loss at home to Louisiana.

How Marshall Can Win

Rockfight. Marshall has scored 20 points TOTAL in their two Sun Belt games. Their offensive line is massive and RB Khalon Laborn is outstanding. But they are extremely limited in the passing game and cannot afford to get into the kind of track meet JMU is capable of. Coach Huff suggested the Herd will have a two-QB system this week and we all know what it means when you have two QB’s – you really don’t have a QB.

But on the other side of the ball, as Coach Cignetti noted, and this wasn’t just coach speak, in this week’s Sun Belt presser, Marshall’s defense is extremely tough and talented. The Herd need to lean on them to muck this game up and force turnovers the way they did in the win over the Irish. Even in their losses to Troy and ULL, the defense was a pain. If Marshall wins, an ugly, physical contest where neither team exceeds around 20 points seems the most likely recipe.

Adding to this need to keep this thing a tight rockfight throughout, Marshall’s roster features 50+ transfers out of the portal in the new staff’s attempt to ride the university’s juco-esque tradition (not meant as a shot, just a fact) towards an ultra-fast turnaround. Early results had them rocking in Huntington on the way home from South Bend, but at 3-3, 0-2, what does this freshly-acquired group do if the Dukes start humming again? Like we said, the Herd need to avoid letting a Homecoming crowd at Bridgeforth start feeling itself.

How JMU Can Win

Cut down on big mistakes, be patient, and ride the Bridgeforth energy when they get momentum. Marshall’s strong rushing attack will be arguably the first giant test for a Dukes rush defense that has yielded basically NOTHING all season. But Marshall, who has yet to score more than 28 points in regulation against non-Norfolk St. competition (including another FCS game), seems unlikely to simply run away with this game if JMU can limit the huge mistakes that hurt so bad last week but had been uncharacteristic before that (keep in mind that JMU’s LOWEST point total of the year was 32 at App). Against Marshall’s tough defense, this may require some patience from both the offensive players and play-callers and a revved up Homecoming crowd. 10-3 good guys at the half would not be a disaster. But this week, if/when the Dukes ever stretch the lead to two scores and a Bridgeforth crowd that is fully ready to celebrate this fun-filled start to FBS life gets rocking, JMU has to lock in and ride that momentum. No letting anyone have hope like last week. A 14-point lead for a Dukes team with some wounded pride on defense and a more limited offensive team like the Herd is a formula for some rollicking good times in Section 210 and all around the happiest place on Earth this Saturday!

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Commonwealth Brewing Marvolo Imperial Chocolate Nitro Stout – This is the like the old man version of Hard Mountain Dew and perfect for Homecoming. Nitro coffee, chocolate, coconut, 8.7%. Let it rip.

Official JMUSB Prediction

The Dukes finally face one of the other Sun Belt newcomers this week when the Herd make the trip east on 64 across the Mountain State and up the Valley on 81 (Douthat! ifykyk). With all the excitement about renewing hostilities with ODU and App, and now unfortunately being reminded to hate Georgia Southern quicker than we’d hoped, the fact there’s a green team with a certain animal logo that’s not too far in a different direction has gotten a bit lost. But make no mistake, this one’s going to explode in multiple sports at some point and I don’t think we’re alone in being excited for a reasonably drivable and passionate fanbase in a new spot. Marshall’s time as a 1-AA power barely overlapped with JMU’s real ascendance. While the teams only met twice (both in Huntington), they were notable moments for JMU. In JMU’s first 1-AA playoff appearance, the Herd won in 87 and then in 94 a very good Dukes team (Jordan/Lee/Brooks/Jeter/etc.) lost in OT in the second round to the then #2 Herd (coincidentally after beating fellow SBC member Troy in the first round in Harrisonburg).

Our bet this week is the Dukes rally big-time after last week’s disappointment and meet what is certain to be a physical challenge in the last game before a break in front of a raucous BFS crowd. Marshall may be able to grind this game to a standstill for a bit, but we don’t think they can score consistently enough to hang with JMU for 60 minutes.

JMU 30, Marshall 16

Oct 14 / Todd

JMU at Georgia Southern: Official JMUSB Game #6 Preview

The SoulCrusher

The Basics

Matchup: #25 JMU Dukes (5-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) at Georgia Southern Eagles (3-3, 0-2 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, October 15, 2022, Allen E. Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Arkansas

Weather: Mainly sunny, high 78.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -12, O/U 67 (Vegas and the betting public finally catching up to the ATS darling Dukes)

How We Got Here

The Dukes are 5-0, ranked in the AP poll, are a balanced and complete team that also happens to have the nation’s best rush defense. They’ve smoked everyone they’ve played except for one fumbling debacle of a quarter in Boone. Exactly what everyone predicted before the season, right?

The Eagles have been up and down but their old-school, passionate fanbase has to be pleased overall with the seeds of a return to prominence being planted in Coach Clay Helton’s first year. They started out with a blowout FCS win and then the big shocker at Nebraska that got the Huskers’ coach fired. Then they struggled against a quality UAB team before beating a bad Ball St. squad to finish out their non-conference. In Sun Belt play, they’ve had two disappointing close losses to undefeated Coastal and last week in Atlanta to the hated “other GSU.”

How Georgia Southern Can Win

Stop turning the ball over and outscore the Dukes. The Eagles defense can only charitably be described as a work in progress. Aside from their FCS game, they’ve given up 42 (Nebraska), 35 (UAB), 23 (Ball St.), 34 (Coastal), and 41 (Ga. St.) points. That’s, uh, not good given the consistency we’ve seen from a Dukes offense averaging 44 points per contest.

But Southern’s offense has been prolific in Helton’s attempt to finally move them out of their storied triple-option past. Led by Buffalo transfer QB Kyle Vantrease and a slew of receivers (last week they had four guys with at least 5 catches), they throw it early and often. The Eagles throw to set up their surprisingly strong (at least statistically speaking) running game, but the O-Line has limitations. It’s worth noting that the Eagles attempt to overcome their O-Line by getting the ball out fast – they haven’t yielded a ton of sacks. They should move the ball and score against even JMU. But they HAVE to avoid interceptions as they’ve buried themselves under an avalanche of them in losses. Southern can absolutely hang with JMU offensively but they’ve got to stay ahead or even on the scoreboard to avoid letting JMU’s pressure crank up and force more of those daggers.

How JMU Can Win

Score early and consistently. The Dukes overall offensive stats give the surface impression of an unstoppable machine. But JMU has quietly started rather slowly in all three Sun Belt games thus far before exploding later on. The Eagles are probably too consistent on offense for JMU to start so slowly this week without falling into a big hole like the game at App. If JMU can put some points up earlier this week, then it can allow its explosive defense to go to work coming up with big plays even if it gives up a few here and there like last week in Arkansas, this could be a fun week for the Dukes. Defensively, just make tackles and don’t give up big yards after the catch.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Starr Hill Northern Lights IPA – as Michael Scott said, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.” The last two road games – App and Ark St. – where we watched on tv, we grabbed one of these old Virginia standbys that are available everywhere out of the back of the fridge after slow starts for the Dukes. JMU immediately started scoring and we’ve never looked back. So this C’ville fave gets the nod this week.

Official JMUSB Prediction

In boxing they say “styles make fights.” In March Madness, you often hear coaches talk about a specific matchup more than how overall “good” the teams in their way are. We’re confident the Dukes are a better overall team right now than Georgia Southern, but we’re not nearly as sure from a pure “matchup” standpoint. This is likely the most pure passing-based offense JMU will see this year. And while Vantrease isn’t mobile, the Eagles get the ball out quick which helps their developing line and slows down their opponent’s pass rush. In other words, some of the things we’ve come to rely on about JMU (e.g. non-mobile QB’s struggle, JMU destroys running teams) may not apply this week. With a few players banged up and Homecoming on deck, this feels like the most “trappish” game left on the schedule. Still think the Dukes are just too damned good.

JMU 41, Georgia Southern 23

Oct 7 / Todd

JMU @ Arkansas St.: Official JMUSB Game #5 Preview


The Basics

Matchup: JMU Dukes (4-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) at Arkansas St. Red Wolves (2-3, 1-1 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, October 8, 2022, Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, Arkansas

Weather: Clear, low 60s. Pretty perfect conditions at kickoff but keep in mind this is a 6:00 kickoff locally so sun/shadows could be an issue in the first quarter or so.

Broadcast: NFL Network

Boys in the Desert: JMU -11.5, O/U 55.5

How We Got Here

The Dukes are 4-0 and very much in the national conversation at this point with one of the nation’s toughest defenses and dominant performances outside of the big win in Boone. The weather and the scoreboard excuse what may have actually been a “meh” performance offensively last week but JMU has objectively been one of the crisper teams anywhere this year.

Arkansas St. has had an odd schedule but it seems fair to say they’re developing into a consistently capable team offensively that is starting to put things together. The Red Wolves started the season with an FCS blowout win and a loss to Ohio St. where it should be noted they hung reasonably tough for a half. Then they made mistakes in a tough 44-32 loss to rival Memphis, lost a tight one in Norfolk to ODU 29-26 at the end, and finally put things mostly together in a fairly strong 45-28 home win over ULM last week.

How Arkansas St. Can Win

Make more big plays and avoid mistakes. QB James Blackmon and a deep group of receivers have clearly shown they can consistently score points and they’ll likely need more of the same tomorrow. And RB/KR Johnnie Lang can absolutely go. It doesn’t feel like the Red Wolves can win a grinder against the Dukes but there’s no doubt that if the Dukes make more mistakes and Arkansas St. can open the game up with their speed and big plays, they can pull this off in what Coach Butch Jones would almost certainly call a building block for this re-developing program.

How JMU Can Win

Rattle the Wolves’ O-Line and be accurate in the passing game. Lost in the easy-going win last week was some icky interceptions and pre-read plays in the running game by the Dukes offense. JMU cannot afford to give those extra chances away this week to such more capable offense. JMU’s offense needs to get back to the efficient passing game we saw the first two weeks and the second half at App and balance that with continued steadiness in the running game.

Broken record here but defensively the Dukes need their pressure to get home, both to rattle a large but shaky O-Line and to force early throws from Blackmon. JMU’s secondary has vastly exceeded our expectations thus far but they can’t be asked to cover for extended plays against this group of skill players.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Flyway Brewing’s Free Range Brown Ale. When in Arkansas (never trust anyone from a state with an ass on the end), Little Rock’s Flyway is widely available and always solid. And it finally feels like a very Oktoberfesty type weekend. Many people celebrate falls with beers chocked full of a certain gourd. Many people are wrong. Find yourself a tasty Brown Ale to curl up in that hoodie with and stop listening to the propaganda from big pumpkin.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU’s pass rush is goes wild and ultimately forces penalties and turnovers that turn this game after halftime. On the other side, if JMU can avoid turning the ball over, we expect big days from KT and Ravenel in particular out of the slot. Big plays will be there to be made and we’re looking forward to watching those guys run!

JMU 38, Arkansas St. 20

Sep 30 / Todd

Texas State @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #4 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: Texas State Bobcats (2-2, 0-0 Sun Belt) at JMU Dukes (3-0, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. EST. Saturday, October 1, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Wet. Also an odd combination of humid and cold with high only around 53. Take note there is no bad weather, only bad clothing choices.

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU -21.5, O/U 51.5 (note the line has moved towards the Dukes from lower opening numbers most places)

How We Got Here

The Dukes now fully have the attention of the in-the-know portion of the college football fanbase, and are close to making inroads with national fans, after coming back from the most dangerous score in football, 28-3, to take down the vaunted App. St. Mountaineers last week in what could turn out to be a signature moment for the program. Combined with now 3-1 MTSU’s blowout of Miami way down south, suddenly JMU looks fully for real to their new Sun Belt brethren.

On the other side, Texas St. is still a bit of an unknown. They have wins over two horrendous teams, FIU and FCS Houston Baptist (who is almost certainly better than FIU). They have an expected-but-not-altogether-terrible loss to Baylor, and a shockingly bad blowout loss to a bad Nevada team in Week 1. But as we’ve seen with MTSU, Week 1 is not always indicative of a team’s true level.

Oh yeah, while these teams have never met, the Withers Bowl factor and an O’Kelly punting for the Bobcats add a little extra flavor to this matchup.

How Texas St. Can Win

Protect the QB and win the turnover battle. On offense, the Bobcats have to find some way to run the ball at least enough to keep the Dukes honest. JMU’s defense has allowed less than 100 yards rushing in three games. Total. If the Bobcats want to hang in this week, they’ve got to find a way to do better than that. When App got in a position where they were forced to throw and everyone knew it in the second half last week, the Dukes starting destroying Chase Bryce to a point of shookness that caused the game-turning INT.

But defensively in bad weather there may be opportunities against a JMU offense that was a bit loose with the football last week after an easy first couple weeks. The Bobcats almost certainly need to take advantage of any mistakes the Dukes make.

How JMU Can Win

Take this as seriously as any FBS game played by JMU to date. Texas St. was picked fairly unanimously as one of preseason picks to be at the bottom of the Sun Belt, and they’ve done little so far to change that perception. However, while the App-type “big” games are what draws the eye to JMU’s awesome new world, it’s games like this that are going to really show the enormous step up in competition from FCS to FBS. Texas St. has 85 schollies and plenty of talent. In other words, this ain’t Rhode Island and the Dukes can NOT afford to treat the Bobcats like the bad teams from the old conference. JMU’s biggest advantage – particularly on a sketchy weather day – is it’s dominant D-Line taking on a suspect O-Line from TSU. JMU needs to continue shutting down the run and pressuring the offense.

On what is likely to be a chilly, wet, windy day in the Valley, hanging onto the ball offensively (especially after multiple fumbles last week) is probably as crucial as anything schematically. That said, finding ways to get the ball back to KT will surely be a priority this week.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Shiner Bock makes its annual appearance for the only Texas-related game this season. Plus it’s an early tailgate with weather issues that screams “keep it simple” on menu choices for both food and bev. Nothing simpler that still tastes outstanding than Shiners in a coozie held by rain gloves.

Official JMUSB Prediction

As we said last week in this space, this year’s Dukes are 100% for real. Guessing we aren’t as much of an outlier in this regard anymore, but we still think this team is so locked in – and seemingly just playing in the moment – that there’s no letdown this week.

JMU 38, Texas St. 13

Sep 23 / Todd

JMU @ App State: Official JMUSB Game #3 Preview

Father of the Constitution, Mother of All Gameday Crowds
Still true, just saying.

Matchup: JMU Dukes (2-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) at Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. EST. Saturday, September 24, 2022, Kidd-Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC

Weather: Partly Cloudy, high 65 (it’s almost really Fall y’all!)

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: App -7, O/U 57.5 (note the line has moved towards the Dukes from higher opening numbers most places)

How We Got Here

The Dukes have caused a few folks to take note in the FBS world and raised our partisans’ hopes with nearly flawless performances during a 44-7 thrashing of (possibly) mid-tier G5 team MTSU to start and an expected beatdown of Norfolk St. a couple weeks ago. JMU’s odd “transition” situation led to two bye weeks, including this past week’s early hiatus. Not too much to read from JMU’s dominance over bad teams, but it’s at least encouraging to know that MTSU has gone on to win handily in their two weeks since being shredded by the Dukes.

While JMU’s start has been rather straightforward (even if the blowout in Week 1 was more than we expected), App. St. has been the nation’s best college football rollercoaster through three weeks. In their opener, they finally got the hated Tarheels to come up the mountain. This caused the Mountaineers to add temporary seating to meet ticket demand and to forget what they were doing for the better part of three quarters. Then they caught fire and scored an insane 40(!) fourth-quarter points to nearly cap what would’ve been a miraculous comeback before falling 63-61 when they failed on a two-point attempt to tie the game. And that doesn’t really come close to covering the madness of that game. Then we all know they went to Texas A&M and dominated the Aggies despite messing around and nearly blowing it in a 17-14 win that got the whole college football world to pay attention and got them awarded ESPN’s College Gameday (sweetly over the vanquished A&M cult by the way) for last week’s game. Then they did their best JMU Gameday part 1 impression (still too soon) by nearly blowing their big day against Troy only to steal their Sun Belt opener with a true Hail Mary on the game’s final play. Whoo, that’s not the way most folks get to 2-1 but here we are.

How App St. Can Win

Find another reserve of emotional energy and don’t overlook this opponent for a minute. There are a few schematic things to hit on here of course, but the Mountaineers staying locked in after the crazy highs and lows of the first three weeks seems as important as anything X’s and O’s in this one, particularly against a rested and relatively healthy group of Dukes.

On offense, App needs QB Chase Brice to be accurate when the 2 or 3 chances to go deep inevitably surface against this evolving JMU defense. Hit those and App will be a great spot even if this turns into a track meet. But miss those – even with as good and creative as the Mountaineers run game can be – and it could turn into a disaster if JMU gets ahead and gets to tee off while tolerating the risk on the back end. RB Camerun Peoples has been exceptional even against the strong competition App has played so far and he’ll have to keep that up against a Dukes D that will likely be focusing on him.

Defensively, its cliché but App needs to force JMU to play behind the chains. JMU’s success in the running game sets up so much of their devastating play-action when the playbook is open on 2nd and 3rd and short situations.

How JMU Can Win

Be ready for the speed of the game out of the bye from the opening kickoff and take advantage of opportunities. The most important thing for JMU early is to be ready to go after the layoff. Against Peoples and a “maybe” strong D (TAMU looks pathetic on offense so the jury is still out), the Dukes really need to avoid falling behind too much too early.

Offensively, with App likely to key on the run and KT, the Dukes will need continued improvement from the secondary playmakers like Green, Ravenel, and Black. But the chances seem likely to be there and when they are, JMU has to take full advantage of the opportunities with TD’s rather than FG’s.

As far as being opportunistic on D, the most important thing for the Dukes is to get off the field on 3rd and 4th downs. The Mountaineers are aggressive about 4th down calls (in a way we applaud!) and seem unlikely to do anything different against JMU. The Dukes need to finish possessions defensively. One of JMU’s biggest problems against other hardnosed teams the last few years (see NDSU) wasn’t necessarily giving up huge plays but rather allowing a team to grind out yards and clock time, thus stripping JMU’s high-powered offense of the chances it often gets to showcase the speed and playmaking that has become a Dukes staple.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Skipping Rock Beer Co’s Belgian Dubbel – Staunton’s Skipping Rock has been quietly flying under the radar for a while now despite doing most things well and few things wrong. But during a summer of obsessing over bike racing and beer that always seemed to end up with all things Belgian (Wout Van Aert at le Tour was incredible!), we finally bridged fully back to the Continental aisles at the big beer store and starting loving these huge Belgian beers again. And who knew that right here in the Valley there’s a tremendous offering in this category. Plus the high octane 7.8% seems appropriate for renewing old hostilities!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This one will finally allow our fans to stop being so cautious about this team’s potential. It won’t be a surprise in the locker room or here at JMUSB HQ. We think this year’s Dukes are for real and maybe a few others outside the Valley will pick up on that come 7 p.m. or so Saturday night!

JMU 38, App 24

Sep 9 / Todd

Norfolk St. @ JMU: Official 2022 JMUSB Game #2 Preview


Matchup: JMU Dukes (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs. Norfolk State Spartans (0-1, 0-0 CUSA)

Kickoff: 4:00 p.m. EST. Saturday, September 10, 2022, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: Mostly Cloudy, 77, humid

Broadcast: ESPN+

Boys in the Desert: JMU by a LOT

How We Got Here

The Dukes turned quite a few heads in the FBS college football world (and none moreso than among our own fans) with an exquisite performance during a 44-7 thrashing of (possibly) mid-tier G5 team MTSU last week. Norfolk St. on the other took their expected beating 55-3 at the hands of fellow new Sun Belt member Marshall in Huntington.

How Norfolk St. Can Win

Have COVID decimate JMU’s roster between now and kickoff. That’s really about it.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t act like they won a trophy last week. JMU’s only danger this week is themselves and feeling way too pleased and proud. Based on what we saw last week from these two teams (and based on what we’ve seen from this matchup a couple times in recent years), the Dukes should be embarrassed if this is close at the half. But that SBC logo on the field, and the hype of the last week off the field, don’t actually win games and the boys need to get back in the lab. Unlike past seasons, this is the only true cupcake on the schedule (well, we’ll see about Texas St.) and this game should be treated as maybe the only serious opportunity to get real work for lots of backups and young guys who will likely be sorely needed later in the first FBS slog. It’s also a chance to clean up some of the unnecessary penalties from last week and get the timing right in the placekicking game.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Santa Fe Brewing’s New Mexico Standard. New Mexico is arguably the nation’s most underrated state. And almost inarguably the nation’s most underrated beer state. Unfortunately, Santa Fe Brewing is largely the only brewery with (sort of) widely available products east of the Mississippi and it’s lineup is not the best representative of The Beers of Enchantment. With exceptional producers like La Cumbre, Marble, and Bosque cranking out the amazingly weird products that come from a beer-culture with no limitations but little distribution, it’s disappointing for this place and its beer that we love. But this lager, an aptly named Standard, is absolutely what it claims: a clean, crisp standard lager with a low ABV (in a gorgeous can worthy of the state with the best lineup of license plates) perfect for long tailgates and humid September days.

Official JMUSB Prediction

Lots of Billy Atkins to Maxwell James and hopefully even an Alonza Barnett cameo.

JMU 48, Norfolk St. 13