(The following article is the eleventh 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.)
This is it. With a CAA championship and undefeated regular season on the line, No. 1 JMU travels to play at No. 11 Elon in a game with major FCS Playoff seeding implications for the two highest-ranked Colonial Athletic Association teams.
JMU fans really want to win.
Let me tell you why they're going to lose.
DOOMED DUKES: WHY JMU WILL TOTALLY LOSE AT ELON
So far this year, 10 teams have tried and failed to beat James Madison University in a game of football. JMU is, unquestionably, a good team. No one denies this.
But on the eve of JMU's final regular season game of the year, perhaps it's time we take a look at some of these mighty football giants that JMU has taken behind the woodshed.
There was perennial Top-25 team Villanova. A 30-8 win over a fellow CAA power was a great win! Well, until the Wildcats were decimated by injuries and lost four straight games — including last week's bummer at Rhode Island — sinking them into eighth place.
There was a shutout win against New Hampshire. It goes down as a top-25 win, but UNH has been more paper tiger than legitimate national player these last few seasons.
There's the much-heralded FBS win at ECU. It's always a boon to upset a team with 22 more scholarships, but East Carolina (2-8) ranks 144th in Jeff Sagarin's computer rankings right now — nine spots behind fringe playoff team Montana, and 63 spots behind CAA rival Delaware.
Speaking of UD, a 20-10 win in the Blue Hen House is probably the best win JMU has to date. But it doesn't appear that the Dukes been challenged all that much.
Enter No. 11 Elon. Still smarting from an overdue loss in the cold up in New Hampshire, the Phoenix are salivating at a chance to dethrone the champs. Elon has yet to beat JMU in five tries.
Does an annoyed Elon team need more encouragement than that? Probably not. But this weekend's matchup is a de facto CAA title game. And since Elon hasn't so much as sniffed a CAA title since joining the league three years ago, I've got to imagine the CAA's southernmost team is ready to get a W on Senior Day.
JMU? The Dukes are coming off an emotional, last-second win over a bitter rival. They're already CAA champions, regardless of the outcome of this game. Hell, they might even already be the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs.
Elon? They could win and assure themselves a likely playoff seed. Or, they could fall father into the back of the Top 25, entering the playoffs on a two-game skid, endangering the possibility of a home playoff game.
It's easy to envision JMU completing an undefeated regular season when the Dukes haven't lost an FCS game since December 5, 2015. But a road game at Elon may represent JMU's biggest challenge of the season. It's not just a question of will, either — Elon's unbalanced defensive set has allowed just 19 points per game over its last six contests, and JMU's inconsistent offense is already averaging just 20 points per game against upper-echelon CAA teams.
JMU's scoring defense (9.6ppg) might be the best in FCS football, but the trends for JMU's offense don't suggest much room for error on Saturday.
The Dukes are a better team than Elon. Few would dispute that fact.
But in its toughest game of the year, with little incentive to play for, against an Elon team that's finally been prodded out of its stupor with an unfortunately timed loss, I've got to side with the home team that's got more to play for.
It's Week 12, and the Dukes are Doomed.