Apr 23 / Todd

Official JMUSB Playoff Preview Round of 16: VMI @ JMU

And suddenly all the nonsense falls away. The potential insanity of a spring season, transfer portals, basically everything in the world for 2020-21. And now it’s just the playoffs! In four short weeks, the sun could be shining on a Dukes team in Frisco. In three weeks, the Bison themselves could be at Bridgeforth. Next week, a chance to start shutting up the MVFC could be on the line. But none of that matters because a very old rival comes to town for the first time in many years this week with all of that at stake.

James Madison quarterback Cole Johnson throws during the Dukes' win over Richmond on Saturday in Harrisonburg.
Still love those gold lids

The Basics

Matchup: #11 Virginia Military Institute Keydets (6-1, 6-1 SoCon) at #3 JMU Dukes (5-0, 3-0 CAA)

Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. EDT. Saturday April 24, 2021, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown, VA

Weather: Cloudy with occasional rain in the afternoon. High 59F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall around a quarter of an inch.

Broadcast: ESPN3

Boys in the Desert: All oddsmakers agree that JMU should be a heavy favorite over VMI – either 14 or 14.5-point favorites (according to Sports Betting Dime). But when it comes to betting the moneyline (i.e. JMU to win by any margin), the odds vary drastically. JMU is as short as -800 and as long as -560. That means bettors would have to risk 42.8% more at certain sportsbooks to obtain the same return.

How VMI Can Win

Be more than happy to be here and force JMU to outscore them. First and foremost, the Keydets need to lock in the game itself and make sure they aren’t merely celebrating so many firsts in this special spring season for the boys from Lexington. First FCS playoff appearance, first trip to new Bridgeforth, first SoCon title in 40 years, first win over El Cid in longer than they’d like to admit. All of that was nice last week and will be even nicer over scotch this summer, but if they want to keep achieving firsts, they need to be focused on a JMU team that is starting to find it’s fully operational form after lots of fits and starts this spring.

And make no mistake, a 6-1 SoCon champ can beat JMU. But VMI probably can’t do it in a 16-10 grinder. If they’re going to win, VMI needs to force JMU to play their way. They need a game with lots of possessions, lots of plays run, and lots of opportunities to trick the Dukes’ defense and bust big plays. The headline-drawing matchup all of us fans are looking forward to is VMI’s Air Raid offense, with all its schematic creativity and plethora of weapons led by 6’4″ WR Jakub Harres, against JMU’s vaunted defense led by CAA Defensive Player of the Year Mike Greene. But in reality, that matchup could be a wash with VMI getting theirs so to speak while also giving the Dukes a few chances for gamechanging plays. This game is more likely to come down to the other side of the ball for both teams. Put simply, unless VMI can get off to a blisteringly fast start with a multi-score lead, then their defense is going to have to show they can hold up to JMU’s bruising running game and its constant attempt to grind teams into dust by later in the game. The Keydet defense cannot allow 2 or 3 long drives that keep their O off the field.

How JMU Can Win

Don’t believe the hype, DO NOT turn the ball over, and play with the same level of gameplanning, execution, and ruthlessness they have against William & Mary and Richmond the last month. First, the Dukes need to throw out all past conceptions of VMI as a “lesser” FCS team. Any 6-1 SoCon team, regardless of recent history or the color of the uniform, is capable of winning at this stage and needs to be taken seriously.

Second, JMU needs to control the ball, the tempo, and the clock. VMI’s AirRaid can only score when it’s on the field, so not turning it over and giving them extra possessions is crucial. If JMU can produce a couple of long drives, they will have a chance to let the big O-Line lean on VMI later in the day. With the inconsistency (we hope it’s getting better) the Dukes have had in the passing game this year, this is not the team to fall behind by multiple scores against.

And finally, it all sounds so simple on paper, but if both teams play well, the Dukes probably win this by 10. So just do your job ruthlessly and see where things end up.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Woodstock Brewhouse Tower Stout – We normally break out the cold/dark/perfect stouts and such for the brutal Valley-in-December playoff games. We’re hopeful this game – with potential cold-ish rain – will be the only game worthy of such a selection the next three weeks. This one is nitro-brewed so it’s smooth and of course is named for one of the Commonwealth’s best gravel climbs up Woodstock Tower Rd. to the Woodstock fire tower – the cyclists know this one for sure!

Official JMUSB Prediction

This could be a fun one. We’re guessing this one is competitive as hell and we all need reminding that we should treat VMI more as a 6-1 SoCon Champ (think how we’d view this game if it was 6-1 Furman or Wofford) instead of “just VMI.” But the Dukes are finally figuring out the competition aspect of this wild Spring Season and they’re looking like the talent-laden squad we’ve all come to expect.

JMU 31, VMI 17

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: