I've started some preliminary research into Maryland's next opponent, the James Madison Dukes. While it's all too easy to write this game off as an easy win because JMU is in the CAA, the CAA has a winning record against the ACC this year, 2-1 (thanks Duke and UVA!). So, yeah, you have to respect James Madison. Cal they are not, but, as Delaware proved last year, an FCS team can take Maryland to the wire.
Anyway, here's a couple of things you should know:
- JMU is replacing last year's starting QB Rodney Landers. Landers was a huge part of the offense, and it's definitely reasonable to expect a lot of offensive issues on Saturday. As if it wasn't bad enough to be losing the heart and soul of the team and the offense, there's no clear-cut replacement. Two QBs with no experience and nothing separating them in a fierce position battle - Drew Dudzik and Justin Thorpe - will see playing time . The old saying may apply here: "If you have two QBs, you have none."
- Oh, and they lose their starting RB.
- Oh, and they lose three starters from their offensive line, just like Maryland did.
- With those three bullets in mind, it's still important to note that James Madison usually has a very strong offense. However, it's early in the season, and with those issues in tow, it's foolhardy to expect a solid offensive outing.
- Defensively, it doesn't look that different. On the positive side, the Dukes' defensive line looks very solid, returning Arthur Moats at DE, who had 11.5 sacks last year, and Sam Daniels at DT, who had 6 sacks. That, of course, doesn't bode well for an offensive line that got manhandled against Cal.
- Other than that, though, it's a different story, especially in the secondary. They lose starting strong safety and leading tackler Marcus Haywood, All-CAA CB and 2nd leading tackler Evan McCollough, free safety Gerren Griffen, and 2nd leading interceptor (?) and starting CB Darrieus Ramsey. Pat Williams, formerly a free safety, is moving down to linebacker, too. Needless to say, they could be vulnerable through the air.
- Linebacker isn't much better. Only one player has any experience at the position - Jamie Veney - and he's only a sophomore. While the defensive line is strong, the rest of the defense isn't.
- Scotty McGee is apparently good at returning kicks. His coach calls him "the nation's premier kick returner". Okay then.
- After reading some message boards, it seems many JMU fans think that head coach Mickey Matthews doesn't really play FBS games to win. He realizes victories aren't likely, and usually tries to get out of there with no injuries and a check. It's something to keep in mind.
To recap, James Madison has a lot of holes. They were great last year - 8-0 in conference, 12-2 overall - but they did that with a different QB, a different RB, a different OL, a different LB corps, and a different secondary. Needless to say, the game shouldn't be that difficult.