(The following article is the sixth entry in a reverse-jinx preview series for JMU Football. If you don’t already know the premise, you can find the first article here.)
There's nothing like a well-timed vacation. I can't count the number of times I've gotten off a bus after going toe-to-toe with a bunch of 300-pound guys from Delaware and thought, "boy, I could really use a week away from all this football."
Fortunately, that's exactly what the good folks at James Madison got last week. There was no football game for the Dukes for the first time since August. Coach Houston attended a press conference in a Hawaiian shirt. It was a nice respite for all of us.
This week, though, JMU football returns in a big way. No. 1 JMU will host No. 11 Villanova in a highly anticipated football matchup. The game is a mega-sellout. ESPN's College GameDay is in town. There's so many eyes on Harrisonburg that Tupac actually called Duke Dog to tell him he was jealous.
With the epic return of Bridgeforth and the Boys, it's time to find out why JMU is obviously, totally, definitely going to lose this weekend.
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Be honest, JMU fans. How much enjoyment did you get out of Sunday's announcement that College GameDay would return to the Quad before someone brought it up?
You know what I'm talking about. It. That game. You the one.
In 2015, after an epic morning of more than 12,000 purple-clad fans on the quad, the freaking Richmond Spiders came into Harrisonburg and beat No. 4 JMU, 58-48. Vad Lee was injured; later, we'd learn that his career was over.
It's tough to go from the highs of hosting one of the most memorable GameDays ever to the lows of losing to your archrival, at home, with your star quarterback in an aircast in the locker room. For most fans, their recollection of that day stops around 12:01 p.m. when the cameras shut off.
How long did it take this week before some well-meaning buddy of yours dredged up those unpleasant memories?
I can't change the past, Dukes fans. I can only tell you about the present. With Mike Houston replacing the wannabe TV star that coached the Dukes in 2015, JMU isn't going to lose to Villanova this week simply because ESPN is throwing another party.
Instead, they're going to lose to Villanova because the Wildcats are flat-out better.
Don't believe me? Let's take a peek at Villanova's defense.
Obviously, JMU's defense is good, but what stands out for the Wildcats is just how good their rush defense is despite having one fewer defensive lineman in its base scheme. Villanova runs a 3-3-5 stack defense, and historically, this style of defense can struggle to defend the run. Despite this, Villanova leads the CAA in rushing defense. Through six games this season, the Cats have allowed 300 total rushing yards. For opponents, that breaks down to 50 rush yards per game and 1.8 yards per carry.
By comparison, JMU is giving up 89.4 yards per game and 2.7 yards per carry. Those are still great numbers for Madison, but not slap-yo-momma numbers like the creature from the light blue lagoon that's coming down from Philly.
Villanova's defensive superiority was on full display last week, when they demolished Maine. You wanna talk about a white-out, JMU fans? Well, Villanova whited out Maine, to the tune of 31-0. Yes, that same Maine team that JMU struggled with for three quarters before finally putting them away 28-10.
This is common sense folks. Every sports guy knows this. When one team beats a common opponent by more points than a second team, it means that first team is unquestionably better.
Villanova can't afford to get into a shootout with JMU. That's not how the Wildcats win, and JMU doesn't lose offense-dominated games. But if Villanova makes this game an ugly battle of running into walls and kicking field goals, it'll have an inside track to dethroning the champs.
Get ready to have another bad day, JMU. You might want to stop the DVR at 12:01. Again.
It's week 7 against Villanova, and the Dukes are doomed.