Week 9: JMU in Game of the Week and Updated Playoff Predictions

The beauty of college football is that one week can make or break a season.  That especially holds true for I-AA where one bad game could cost you a shot at the national title because of the limited amount of spots available in the playoff.  This means that even a #1 ranked team in the nation is not immune to falling victim if they are not careful.

Griff Yancey helped JMU rout Villanova, 35-7 in Harrisonburg last year.  The going won't be as easy this year.

Griff Yancey helped JMU rout Villanova, 35-7 in Harrisonburg last year. The going won't be as easy this year.

James Madison has so far played the best football since its national championship year in 2004 and they are going to need to be on the top of their game this Saturday as they face a very game Villanova team that should be ranked higher than 7.  The Wildcats have absolutely manhandled every team they have played including Richmond at least according to Coach Matthews who stated that ‘Nova should have beaten them by more than they did.

It should be noted that JMU is about to face its fourth top 10 team this year.  This is incredible and will go down as the one of the toughest schedules in the history of I-AA.  What will be more incredible is if the Dukes get past Villanova because that would make them 4-0 against top 10 teams.  Hopefully JMU will be prepared to go against arguably their toughest test yet.  GO DUKES!

Onto the new playoff predictions!

We first start with notable updates from the Big Eight conferences.  Southern Illinois routed Youngstown State, 33-0 to help keep its inside track in the Mizzou Valley.  In the Ohio Valley, Tennessee State eeked out a win over Austin Peay, 37-34 to stay undefeated and atop the conference.  While we won’t know much about the Patriot league for awhile, we’ll keep Lafayette atop after their convincing win over Liberty last weekend.  There’s no change for now in the Southern conference but crucial games await this weekend when #4 Wofford travels to Elon to take on the 3rd ranked Phoenix while #2 App State hosts 18th ranked Furman.  By the end of Saturday, we will know who the power teams are there.  Finally, the MEAC title may be on the line this weekend as the Hampton Pirates travel to South Carolina State in a battle of the only two undefeated teams.  Hampton stays for now.

Liberty is now gone thanks to their lackluster performance.  We can also eliminate UMass after the Minutemen were routed at home by Richmond.  Those two eliminations open the door for Northern Iowa and New Hampshire to slide in.   Here’s how the new matchups could look:

1 JAMES MADISON v. Hampton

NORTHERN IOWA v. Central Arkansas

VILLANOVA v. Lafayette

4 WOFFORD v. Richmond

3 ELON v. Northern Arizona

MONTANA v. Cal Poly

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS v. New Hampshire

2 APPALACHIAN STATE v. Tennessee State

Week 8 Means One Thing: First Playoff Predicitions

Well that and JMU is off this week so there isn’t much to talk about.  Just to update those of you who have been living in a sealed room for the last seven weeks, JMU’s football team is having the best season in its history up to this point.  The Dukes have disposed of three teams who were in the top five when they played them and have a potential top five matchup looming again should Villanova move up between now and next Saturday.

Scotty McGee celebrates his Game-winning punt return TD against Richmond, 10/09/08

Scotty McGee celebrates his game-winning punt return TD against Richmond as James Madison remained undefeated in conference play.

Meanwhile, we are well into the heart of the football season.  It is hard to believe that it is more than halfway done but that only makes the excitement build as the playoff picture starts to take shape.  That being said, it is time to start looking where teams stand and what their chances are of getting into the FCS dance.

Once again the CAA has shown that it is, top to bottom, the best conference in the country.  As proof I offer just some results from last weekend: William & Mary, considered on the lower end of the conference, upsets #4 New Hampshire in Durham; Delaware, a finalist in the championship just last year, gets beaten at home by once lowly Maine who has shown they can hang with anyone.  How about Northeastern who is lighting up scoreboards on any foe they face?  They could easily knock out UNH this weekend.  Towson has a fantastic offense behind QB Sean Schaefer. Even though they don’t have the wins to prove it, I’d bet on them against most teams from the other conferences.

These are all arguments in what has become an annual rant for me saying that no less than five teams from the CAA should be in the 16 team bracket.  Sure I’ll give credit to the Southern or Missouri Valley Conferences when their teams start playing some decent competition and they prove they should be in the talk.

Now, let’s first understand a few things about the playoffs.  The Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference abstain from postseason play for their own reasons but that does not really affect anything as no team for either of those conferences are in the top 25.

Next we look at the conferences that get automatic berths for winning the overall title.  The following are the eight conferences with the teams that right now look like they are in the best position to win the overall title:

Big Sky – Northern Arizona Lumberjacks

Colonial – James Madison Dukes

Missouri Valley (formerly Gateway) – Southern Illinois Salukis

Mid-Eastern Athletic – Hampton Pirates

Ohio Valley – Tennessee State Tigers

Patriot – Lafayette Leopards

Southern – Appalachian State Mountaineers

Southland – Central Arkansas Bears

That leaves us with eight spots to fill with each of the previous conferences eligible for at-large births along with four other conferences: Great West, Big South, Northeast, and Pioneer.  This does not mean that a team from any of those four conferences will get in.  It all depends on how they measure up against the teams from the Big Eight.

In fact, there are really only two teams who look like they could come out from the other four: Cal Poly and Liberty.  So if we take those two, that leaves six spots from the Big Eight which means that there will be some very good teams missing out.

So let’s say we look first at the CAA:  Richmond and Villanova have to get in.  UMass and New Hampshire are on the bubble but have very strong resumes.  But let’s go ahead and give two spots to the CAA here.

Southern is next:  Elon and Wofford look good to get in. Other than that, it’s tough to make arguments. So give them two as well.

That leaves two more spots up for grabs.  Montana will grab one if they stay on course due to their preceding reputation and the committee will have to decide on the last one.  I think there is no argument that we give it to either UMass or New Hampshire.  Four CAA teams is a must and right now let’s just say UMass gets it based on being ranked higher and looking like the more consistent team.

So here are the 16 playoff teams:  Northern Arizona, James Madison, Southern Illinois, Hampton, Tennessee State, Lafayette, Appalachian State, Central Arkansas, Richmond, Villanova, UMass, Elon, Wofford, Montana, Cal Poly, Liberty.

Now for the matchups, the committee tries to pair teams in terms of location so that first round trips aren’t too burdensome on the away team.  There are positives and negatives to this but generally there hasn’t been much opposition to it.  Based on rankings, relative location and making sure to have inter-conference matchups, here are possible matchups (home team in caps):

1 JAMES MADISON vs. Liberty

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS vs. Central Arkansas

UMASS vs. Lafayette

4 WOFFORD vs. Richmond

3 ELON vs. Hampton

MONTANA vs. Cal Poly

VILLANOVA vs. Northern Arizona

2 APPALACHIAN STATE vs. Tennessee State

The only problem location-wise seems to be N. Arizona having to come across the country to play Villanova but those are the breaks sometimes (just ask Wofford who had to go to Montana in the first round last year).  This will definitely change as the weeks progress but its nice that we’re back in this part of the year.

12 CAA Teams in 12 Days: UMass

Welcome back to 12 CAA Teams in 12 13 days! Sometimes my other job (the one that actually pays me) will get in the way of this and force me to play catchup but it can’t be helped. With that said, it’s time to stay in the Northeast and check out a place where the letter R does not exist. That’s right it’s Massachusetts!

Name: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Nickname: Minutemen

Founded: 1863

Student Body Population: Approx. 25,000 with Graduates

Located: In the town of Amherst in western Massachusetts about two hours from Boston

Colors: Maroon and White

Mascot: Sam the Minuteman

Fun Academic Fact: UMass Amherst is part of the Five Colleges Consortium which allows its students to attend classes, borrow books, work with professors, etc., at four other Pioneer Valley institutions: Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges.

– UMass and UMaine were both founded under the Land Grant Act signed by President Lincoln in 1862.

MASSACHUSETTS FOOTBALL

Head Coach: Don Brown, 5th Year (38-12)

STADIUM: Warren P. McGuirk Alumni Stadium

Opened in 1965, McGuirk Stadium has a capacity of 17,000 and has seen the Minutemen win 17 conference titles most recently in 2007. The stadium was named after Warren McGuirk who served as UMass’ Director of Athletics from 1948 to 1971. For how long the stadium will be around is uncertain due to an increasing call for the Minutemen to play in the I-A Bowl Subdivision which would require increasing the seating or building a new facility.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

UMass football was going nowhere fast in the 90s until then head coach Mark Whipple did an overhaul and turned a ragtag team into national champions in what seemed like overnight. In fact it was. The previous year, UMass had gone 2-9, but in 1998, the Minutemen went 13-2 culminating with a 55-43 thrashing of previously top ranked and unbeaten Georgia Southern. Eventual NFL running back Marcel Shipp had 244 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead the way and UMass football has been on the map ever since.

UMass RB Marcel Shipp slips away as UMass wins the title against GA Southern on 12/19/1998.

NOTABLE PLAYERS

Steve Baylark, Greg Landry, Milt Morin, Marcel Shipp

12 CAA Teams in 12 Days: Maine

We just keep rolling along with our CAA teams and today the train stops in Orono. Welcome to Lobster Country!

Name: The University of Maine

Nickname: Black Bears

Founded: 1862

Student Body Population: 12,100

Located: In the town of Orono just off of I-95, 15 minutes NE of Bangor and an hour and a half NE of Maine’s capital, Augusta.

Colors: Blue & White

Mascot: Bananas the Bear

Fun Academic Fact: Maine’s Fogler Library houses rare early writings by alumnus Stephen King that many aspiring authors go to research.

– The school offers a minor in Socialist and Marxist Studies, something rarely found in any other university.

MAINE FOOTBALL

Head Coach: Jack Cosgrove, 16th Year (80-90)

STADIUM: Morse Field at Harold Alfond Sports Stadium

Opened in 1998, Harold Alfond Sports Stadium is a 10,000 capacity stadium that is one of the newer facilities in the CAA. The stadium was named after Harold Alfond who donated $3.1 million toward the grandstand that made the capacity what it is today. The field was named for Phillip and Susan Morse who contributed $2.15 million for the playing surface, lights, and scoreboard. The stadium does double duty as the home for the football and field hockey teams.

HISTORIC I-A VICTORY

Despite their recent struggles, the Maine football program will always be able to look back to the 2004 season for inspiration when they had arguably their greatest win ever by shocking I-A Mississippi State of the SEC 9-7 in Starkville. The Bears scored a touchdown with under three minutes remaining to shock the Bulldogs and their fans.

Maine celebrates the upset of Mississippi State at the 50 yard line, 9/19/2004

NOTABLE PLAYERS

Mike Flynn, Brandon McGowan, Lofa Tatupu (transfered to USC after his freshman year)

12 CAA Teams in 12 Days: Hofstra

Welcome back to 12 CAA Teams in 12 Days! Now that you’ve had time to digest all the cool things I’ve taught you about the folks from Delaware, let’s head up to the town of Hempstead, NY on Long Island.

Name: Hofstra University

Nickname: Pride

Founded: 1935

Student Body Population: Approx. 13,000

Located: In the town of Hempstead, New York on Long Island about a half hour drive (if you’re lucky) from Queens

Colors: Blue and Gold

Mascot: A Pair of Lions (“Pride”)

Fun Academic Fact: The school was actually founded as part of New York University but became an independent school named Hofstra College in 1937 before officially being named Hofstra University in 1963.

Hofstra was selected to host the third and final Presidential Debate of 2008 on October 15th. The debate will focus on foreign policy and will feature the candidates sitting at a table with the moderator.

This is also the final year that the New York Jets will have their training camp at Hofstra as has been the tradition for many years.

HOFSTRA FOOTBALL

Head Coach: Dave Cohen, 3rd Year (9-13)

Stadium: James M. Shuart Stadium

Photo courtesy of dbeards3

Opened in 1962, Shuart Stadium is a 15,000 seat capacity stadium that was named Hofstra Stadium until it was renamed for the outgoing president James Shuart in 2002. The stadium has dual roles for both football and lacrosse as it hosted the NCAA D-1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship in 1971 and 2006 and it also was the home field for the Long Island Lizards Major League Lacrosse Team from 2001-02.

NOTABLE PLAYERS:

Charlie Adams, Stephen Bowen, Rocky Butler, Giovanni Carmazzi, Wayne Chrebet, Willie Colon, Marques Colston, Devale Ellis, Dave Fiore, Don Gault, Arlen Harris, John Schmitt, Lance Schulters, Shaine Smith, Renauld Williams, Vincent Molinari.

Wayne Chrebet

HOFSTRA FOOTBALL TODAY AND TOMORROW

The Hofstra football team was going through major struggles until Coach Dave Cohen arrived in 2006. After a rough first season, the Pride (or Flying Dutchmen as I still love calling them) increased their win total by five games and narrowly missed the I-AA playoffs last year. Being able to do that in a conference like the CAA is quite impressive and can only mean that Hofstra is looking at no less than a playoff birth in the coming years. \

Mickey Signs 3 Year Extension; Keener Out; Football Tickets On Sale Soon

It’s great to see all the football headlines coming back to all the college websites. With the NFL combine all but behind us, that means college pro days are next then the draft! But first things first JMU fans. Our fearless leader Mickey Matthews has signed a three year contract extension to remain at Madison through the 2012 season. Here is the article from JMUsports.com. I’m glad Matthews is back since we have such a rough schedule next year. Hopefully we won’t see anymore foolish play calling and decision making in the playoffs anymore though.

In basketball news, coach Dean Keener has announced that he will resign his post effective at the end of this season. Here’s an article about the resignation and if it affected the team’s performance last Saturday courtesy of JMU’s newspaper. Keener had a really tough job rebuilding a poor team but a 29-83 record won’t get you far anywhere and I think it was for the best that both sides part ways.

Also, for all you Dukes fans and anyone else who’s a season ticket holder for your respective school, football tickets go on sale March 1st. That is this Saturday believe it or not. I am assuming that ticket sales dates are similar throughout the country so this is a reminder to anyone who happens upon this site. Specifically for JMU though, make sure and decide if you are going to purchase season tickets, individual or the three game pack that is in its second year of existence and was a popular pick last year. I personally will be choosing it again as I cannot make it to every game due to my distance from the school but the rule on it is that you choose two regular games and then either the family weekend or homecoming game. My guess is a popular three pack will be UMass, App State and Delaware (Homecoming). That’s what I’m doing at least. The website for future reference is here.

UPDATE: I actually went with the season ticket package because it’s cheaper than trying to get the 3 team deal with UMass, App and Delaware. 65 bucks is all for the whole season, just crazy!

2008 JMU Football Schedule and Signees; Mickey Staying

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Ah February. Football maybe over but with all of the bells and whistles put in to make the offseason seem a lot shorter, it seems okay that we already begin talking about next season now.

To start off, JMU coach Mickey Matthews (above) has decided to stay in Harrisonburg. There were rumors floating around that he was leaving to help the University of South Alabama build up its team. Reports were that he was offered substantially more money than JMU was willing to give him but that JMU struck a deal to keep him. I am not sure how true this is but I am glad to hear that he will be sticking with the Dukes for the forseeable future. Article from JMU’s newspaper here.

Here’s a great way to start too: the fact that the 2008 college football schedules and signees have been released. Here’s JMU’s:

Sat, Aug 30 Duke at Durham, N.C. TBA  
Sat, Sep 06 North Carolina Central Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Sep 13 Massachusetts * Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Sep 20 Appalachian State Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Sep 27 Maine * at Orono, Maine TBA  
Sat, Oct 04 Hofstra (Family Weekend) * Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Oct 11 Richmond * at Richmond, Va. TBA  
Sat, Oct 18 Open Date .  
Sat, Oct 25 Villanova * at Villanova, Pa. TBA  
Sat, Nov 01 Delaware (Homecoming) * Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Nov 08 Open Date .  
Sat, Nov 15 William & Mary * Harrisonburg, Va. TBA  
Sat, Nov 22 Towson * at Towson, Md. TBA

It is definitely the toughest schedule JMU has had that I can remember. Opening against an ACC opponent (although one could argue that Duke should be a I-AA program) and home games against the two national championship contenders last year and UMass? That’s insane not to mention we have to go to Villanova and Richmond as well. Keep in mind that tickets do go on sale March 1st so get them while you can.

Also, JMU announced that 14 high schoolers/transfers have signed with the squad.

Acker, Corwin – Fr. – RB – 5-10 – 199 – Landover, Md. – James Hubert Blake

Akuak, Lue – Fr. – DL/OL – 6-3 – 270 – Fort Belvoir, Va. – Hayfield/Fork Union

Barlow, Brian – Fr. – TE – 6-4 – 215 – Stephens City, Va. – Sherando

Beaver, Chris – Fr. – LS/TE – Mooresville, N.C. – Mooresville

Cuffee, Taveion – Fr. – DB – 5-11 – 180 – Virginia Beach, Va. – First Colonial/Fork Union

Harper, Aaron – Fr. – RB/LB – 6-2 – 228 – Fredericksburg, Va. – Courtland

Johnson, Josh – Fr. – LB – 6-2 – 220 – Forestville, Md – St. Johns/Fork Union

Reed, Aaron – Fr. – OL – 6-5 – 310 – Linville, Va. – Broadway

Reynolds, Lee – Fr.- RB – 5-10 – 190 – Baltimore, Md. – Baltimore Poly Tech

Thorpe, Justin – Fr. – QB – 6-2 – 208 – Richmond, Va. – Varina

Veney, Jamie – Fr. – LB – 6-3 – 215 – Kilmarnock, Va. – Lancaster/Fork Union

Watford, Earl – Fr. – OL – 6-5 – 275 – Philadelphia, Pa. – Simon Gratz

Williams, Chase – Fr. – LB – 5-11 – 215 – Gaithersburg, Md. – Northwest

Williams, Richard – Fr. – OL – 6-3 – 290 – Danville, Va. – George Washington

 

Mickey is apparently very high on Thorpe from Richmond (“He was our No. 1 quarterback target from the time he attended our summer camp.”) which translated in Mickey terms means Rodney Landers is on a tight leash this year. If he starts throwing the ball the way he did last year, Mickey will not hesitate to bench him and I will be the first to bless that decision. Thanks to JMUSports.com for both the schedule and signees listings.