(The following article is the tenth 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.)
I've had root canals that were more pleasant than writing this article.
This was a tough one to imagine. Take a deep breath…
DOOMED DUKES: WHY JMU WILL TOTALLY LOSE AT RICHMOND
That's it. No fanfare, no slogans. I don't have a sales pitch for you this week. Great football matches tend to sell themselves, and this certainly qualifies.
The Dukes enter this weekend's rivalry game as prohibitive favorites, sporting an incomprehensible 21-game winning streak. The Dukes sport the No. 1 scoring defense in FCS football. They're also No. 1 in total defense, passing defense, red zone defense, defensive efficiency and turnovers.
Good for you, JMU.
None of that matters this week.
Throw out the records and throw out the playbooks, because when JMU plays Richmond, there are no such thing as predictors. There are only strange, unforeseeable cosmic events.
How about last year, when No. 7 JMU shot its way past No. 6 Richmond, in a 47-43 Instant Classic?
How about the year before, when Richmond upset JMU during College GameDay?
How about 2010, when Richmond held JMU scoreless in an overtime period before nailing a chip shot for the win?
How about 2009, when JMU could have upset No. 1 Richmond, but quarterback Justin Thorpe fumbled the ball on Richmond's 6-yard line in the final minute of a four-point game?
How about 2008, when the Dukes beat the No. 5 Spiders on a last-second punt return that made it to the top spot in Sports Center's Top 10 plays?
How about… okay, so you probably get the point.
Dukes V. Spiders is one of those great regional rivalries that nobody talks about on the national level. It's got everything you could ever want in a college football rivalry — proximity, class warfare, and huge, huge stakes.
This year is no different. JMU is hoping to extend the programs best-ever streak of sustained greatness, while a dangerous, pass-happy Richmond team is hoping to sneak into the playoffs and make some noise, just like Youngstown State did last season.
With senior showman Kyle Lauletta at the helm, Richmond is probably going to beat JMU, too.
No. 1 defense? That's cool. Lauletta is a one-man army who has thrown for a combined 850 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two outings against Madison.
Meanwhile, In his two games against Richmond, JMU's Bryan Schor has only thrown for 358. Clearly, Lauletta is twice as good a quarterback as Schor.
I can hear what you're saying now, JMU guy. "Haven't given up more than 14 points all year, bro. Not gonna change this Saturday, bro."
Yeah, bro, I hear you. But Lauletta is in the hunt for the Walter Payton award, and he's not going to let his foot off the gas. He used to go up against JMU defensive coordinator Bob Trott every day in practice, too, back when Trott was the architect of the UR defense in 2015.
And speaking of 2015 — yeah, you know I'm going there. Lauletta and the Spiders are awfully familiar with this particular brand of regicide. They're not going to fear a matchup with a much-hyped JMU team. Comparisons to the 2015 JMU-Richmond game are apt, since JMU's defense hasn't really changed that much since then.
In a rivalry where the lower-ranked road team has won three straight games, unranked Richmond has to be considered the favorite against undefeated JMU on Saturday.
It's not a surprise. It's not an upset.
It's a rivalry.
It's Week 11, and the Dukes are Doomed.