Oct 27 / Todd

ODU @ JMU: Official JMUSB Game #8 Preview

The Basics

Matchup: Old Dominion Monarchs (4-3, 3-1 Sun Belt) at #25 JMU Dukes (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. EDT, Bridgeforth Stadium, Rocktown

Weather: 58, cloudy

Broadcast: ESPNU

Boys in the Desert: JMU -20.5, O/U 49

How We Got Here

ODU is so weird. And maybe…..good? You tell me what to make of this schedule:

36-17 loss at Virginia Tech, 38-31 home win over Louisiana, 27-24 home loss to Wake Forest, 10-9 homecoming win over something called Commerce, 41-35 loss at Marshall, 17-13 win at Southern Miss, 28-21 home win over App St.

Seriously, what the hell is that? If you can find a pattern you’re smarter than we are. The losses to Tech and Wake were better than they looked. The wins over Commerce and USM were so much worse than they looked. The offensive explosion at a Marshall team that JMU struggled to score against. And now a win over another inconsistent but dangerous (or not?) App team. Like, if they win the Wake game but lose the Commerce game (when TAMU-Commerce went for two and the win in the last minute) does it change our perception? Probably not. Just a strange, strange team who probably had their biggest win last week.

The Dukes dominated Marshall defensively in a weird Thursday night field position game to run their record to 7-0. That’s even more impressive considering JMU has clearly been playing it’s best ball the last three games and seems to be getting better as the season moves along.

How ODU Can Win

Normally we’d say find their running game on offense and make JMU one-dimensional on the other side. But really maybe the answer is “keep hitting big plays.” ODU has made plenty of big plays when they’ve been at their best this year and JMU was, at least prior to the last two games, often susceptible to giving up some headscratchers. No matter who is QB1 for the Monarchs when they have the ball, they simply cannot leave themselves in obvious passing situations. Nobody has really run on JMU, but so often a combination of field position and game situation has also led teams to abandon the effort too early. ODU, which has the most sacks allowed by any team in the country vs. the Dukes defense is a recipe for disaster (and covering a big number :)). But if ODU can find just enough in the running game (not even massive plays necessarily) to stay ahead of the chains and keep the DLine from simply teeing off on their statutesque QB’s, they might be able to pull JMU out of position with some of their creativity on offense (think misdirection, shovel passes, play-action, and even single-wing concepts at times).

Similarly, on defense ODU needs to focus on stopping the run and force JMU to be one-dimensional. The one aspect of the 2023 vintage for JMU that hasn’t fully joined the “complete team” concept that has grown through seven games has surprisingly been the Dukes rushing attack. Whether teams are simply keying on that or they’ve caught up scheme-wise to JMU’s quick-hitting running game, it’s been a mild disappointment given the talent and experience on the OLine and in the RB room. But JMU has never truly been forced to abandon the run – particularly given its fast starts and early leads – and that’s left room for explosiveness in the passing game. The Monarchs have to force JMU to throw – something they could be capable of with the SBC’s leading tackler Jason Henderson at LB – and hope they can make opportunistic plays.

How JMU Can Win

Do the job. That’s it. But this is Homecoming. It’s JMU Halloween. The Dukes are ranked again. The game’s on national tv again. Football commentators and attention-seeking politicians alike are using JMU to take shots at the easy target that is the NCAA. There’s concern about the postseason, next season, NIL, and playoff access. But those are all jobs for people who don’t wear helmets to worry about this week. It’s the jobs of student orgs and the Alumni Association to worry about Homecoming. Students’ (and the HPD) have the job of worrying about Halloween. The Media can worry about rankings. SID’s and the production team can worry about tv. Adminstrators can deal with the NCAA. And the Duke Club and Montpelier Collective can worry about NIL and next season.

The ONLY JOB for Homecoming for the fellas with JMU on the helmet is to WIN the football game. Last year the hype and distractions and fans showing their backsides yelling about postseason led directly to a three-game losing streak that started with a disappointing upset loss to Georgia Southern. This year’s team just needs to do it’s job. On paper this matchup heavily favors the Dukes in almost every meaningful way. The pass rush could be legendary (think playoffs against Soft Houston ’16 or SELA ’21) against the sieve that is ODU’s line. After losing star wideout Ali Jennings to VT’s NIL this year, the Monarchs don’t have a receiver with even 350 yards to date and it’s unclear if they can challenge JMU’s one “developing” area on defense. But for Dukes fans old enough to know better, the only other time ODU came to Bridgeforth, Taylor Heinicke lit JMU up in the second half and handed us one of the more painful losses of the past 25 years. If the team simply maintains its focus on the game and saves worries about all the other stuff for afterwards, there’s no reason to think the Dukes can’t dominate the way they did last year in Norfolk.

JMUSB Beer of the Week

Founder’s All Day IPA. The obvious choice for a tailgate day this lengthy. It’s not cold enough yet for stouts and, despite our preferences, we aren’t choosing a Commonwealth Brewing offering against a 757 team. So make the easy, safe choice and go with the best combo of taste and low ABV found anywhere.

Official JMUSB Prediction

JMU 38, ODU 17 – We’re nervous about the classic “trap game” here and the Monarchs “may” be making progress (is App good?), but the matchup seems too favorable to pick much different from last year’s game.


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  1. CJ / Oct 27 2023

    And now a word from your favorite commentator.

    This is exactly the kind of situation that scares me. We’re undefeated, riding high, ranked, beginning to get more and more attention from the media…and here comes an opponent who doesn’t look particularly threatening on paper. It’s a recipe for being blindsided for our first loss. Not just for JMU, but for any team, there’s a psychological element, a distraction, that’s hard to avoid with all this going on. And ODU has a reason to play their best this weekend. No team on this level is a ground ball…well maybe UConn…but certainly ODU is very capable of giving the Dukes a good punch in the mouth and possibly beating us. Just ask UNC how that can happen.

    Another near miss we had last week was seeing McCloud go down with an injury…although we lucked out that he was able to come back. That’s a HUGE potential game/season changer if we lose our QB1. I’ve never been terribly impressed with Atkins (exhibit A would be last year’s Marshall game, 4 INTS, thank you) and of course where is Barnett right now? If McCloud gets hurt and we’re left with Atkins as our QB1, we’ve got a totally different season. This also leads us into my concern for next year’s QB situation…can we hit the jackpot once again with the transfer portal?

  2. Rob K / Oct 27 2023

    I agree that ODU may be better than their record indicates, and I’m concerned about them just flinging the ball down the filed over and over again and seeing what happens. Marshall rarely did that for reasons that I cannot explain.

    I was at that ODU game with Heinicke, and it was painful because I thought through the first half that we were going to get the upset.

    But to channel Rick Pitino: Taylor Heinicke is not walking through that door!

    I think the difference between an (eventual) NFL talent and their current two-QB set will be on display on Saturday. I’m pretty optimistic for the Halloween victory.

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