JMU’s opponents have been well-rested
Scheduling quirk has two CAA foes coming off byes
Among eight CAA games last year, James Madison faced three league opponents coming off bye weeks.
The CAA office indicated that a repeat of that twist would be avoided in subsequent seasons with an adjustment of the computer-generated scheduling formula.
That patch hasn’t yet fully taken effect.
When the top-ranked Dukes (4-0, 1-0 CAA) visit Delaware (2-1) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CSNplus), JMU will be facing its second consecutive league opponent coming off an open date. Madison last Saturday beat Maine 28-10. The Black Bears had two weeks to prepare for JMU, as did the Blue Hens.
JMU is the favorite to win the CAA. The teams picked second (Richmond), third (Villanova) and fourth (New Hampshire), visit Madison’s Bridgeforth Stadium later this season.
Then there’s Delaware, picked fifth and coming off that bye week, opening its CAA schedule against the Dukes, defending FCS champions. UD returned 20 starters from a 4-7 team (2-6 CAA).
“When you look at them on the hoof ... they’re a big, physically impressive, good-looking group of athletes,” JMU coach Mike Houston said of the Blue Hens. “I made the comment last year that they may be one of the best-looking teams in our league, as far as they’ve got a lot of big, strong kids, got a lot of athletic kids.”
In the Blue Hens’ first three games under Danny Rocco, a former Richmond and Liberty coach, they beat Delaware State and Cornell at home with relative ease, and absorbed a 27-0 loss at Virginia Tech.
“They’re a team that’s probably going to play better and better each week throughout the year as they get more on the same page with the coaching staff,” Houston said. “We see them as maybe our toughest challenge of the year so far.”
Although JMU has scored 47 points per game, Saturday could be more of a defensive deal. Madison allows an average of 12 points. UD allows an average of 14.7.
“I think the bottom line is you’ve got to be able to control the run game,” Rocco said. “I recognize that (the Dukes) do so many other things very well that it forces you sometimes to take your focus off shutting down the run. When that happens to you, you just get carved up. So you’ve got to maintain some element of control with their run game.”
JMU has won 16 straight games, the longest active Division I streak in the nation. With a victory, the Dukes would match Richmond’s CAA record of 17 consecutive victories, set during the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Rocco said his primary concern for his defense is third down. Even when the Dukes encounter third-and-long situations, they have often moved the chains behind the passing and running of senior quarterback Bryan Schor. JMU ranks sixth among FCS teams in third-down success (54.9 percent).
“They’ve got it going on pretty good,” said Rocco, Richmond’s coach the past five years.
Delaware hosts William & Mary on Oct. 14 and Richmond on Oct. 21.