Bennett Conlin’s Worst Preseason JMU Football Predictions

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

It’s easy to talk about your great predictions. We all love the times we correctly pick upsets or nail score projections exactly. Unfortunately, we’re all human. We make mistakes, and we certainly struggle to predict the outcome of sporting events.

I, however, have a gift. My ability to make shockingly bad predictions regarding JMU football prior to the start of the season is untouchable. These aren’t slightly incorrect predictions either, these make your mind melt. If making incorrect football predictions was a job, I’d the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

With the calendar changing to August, we’re closing in on bold prediction season. Before I share any hot takes heading into 2019, let’s look back at worst takes from the past few JMU football seasons.

Connor Mitch: JMU’s 2016 Starting Quarterback?

In an article for The Breeze, I said Connor Mitch and Bryan Schor might split starting quarterback duties for three weeks (!) of the season. The lunacy!

I bought Donnie Kirkpatrick’s line about using both guys in multiple games, but Schor pulled ahead of Mitch throughout the summer with quality play in camp. His knowledge of the offense, accuracy and scrambling ability made him the ideal candidate to lead Kirkpatrick’s offense.

Just how wrong was I? Well, Mitch threw just 17 passes for the Dukes in relief of Schor, and Bryan became one of the most decorated passers in JMU history. Schor, who lead JMU to the 2016-17 national title, leads all Dukes in career touchdown passes.

When Mitch transferred from South Carolina to JMU, I was enamored by a nine-touchdown performance the gunslinger posted in high school. He completed eight total passes with JMU.

Cole Johnson will start in 2018

This is a classic example of jumping the gun. I predicted this before the 2018 spring game. Ben DiNucci proceeded to put together an impressive spring performance, showcasing his ability to scramble. Within hours, my prediction was flawed.

While Johnson didn’t win the starting gig, he put up a better fight than Mitch did with Schor, and Johnson did see a few meaningful reps during the season. He played most of the New Hampshire game in relief of DiNucci and some thought he might earn the starting spot the next week. This isn’t my worst take, but it was, in fact, wrong.

If there’s one thing we know, it’s that I’m bad at predicting who will win JMU offseason quarterback battles. I expect Ben DiNucci to win the starting gig this season, so you may want to put money on Johnson or Gage Moloney.

JMU will go 15-0 in 2018

Jeez. In hindsight, this was the slightest bit optimistic. JMU was coming off two consecutive national title appearances, and several key playmakers returned. Prior to the season, the Dukes had both Jimmy Moreland and Rashad Robinson and an embarrassment of riches at the running back position. I expected the team to gel in Houston’s third season and roll through the competition. The predicted assumed too much would break the Dukes’ way.

Through five games, I felt good about the prediction. Yes, I know the Dukes lost their first game, but I said there was a possibility of a third 14-1 season under Mike Houston, so I was cutting myself some slack. Through five games, JMU looked like it was on a collision course to meet NDSU in Frisco. Then, Elon happened.

The Dukes were outplayed, lost and the season started to unravel. The offense became inconsistent, and JMU fell to New Hampshire before the playoffs. A few solid wins made it seem like the Dukes were poised for a solid finish to the season. Then Colgate happened.

JMU finished the season 9-4, and I looked dumb. Luckily, it’s not the first time, and I’m adept at handling incorrect predictions.

My strategy involves blaming injuries (as if all football teams don’t get hurt), questioning coaching decisions (I like to vaguely blame play calling) and finishing the debate with a flurry of random excuses (coaching rumors, turnovers, weather, playing in front of small road crowds, etc.) Then say, “If the (team name) played (team name) football, they would’ve reached my prediction. Here’s an example of how it all works:

“Well, the Dukes would’ve went 15-0 if Rashad Robinson stayed healthy. Add in conservative play calling from the offense, rumors surrounding Houston, costly and uncharacteristic turnovers, a few poorly attended road games in cold climates, and of course they went 9-4! They just need to get back to playing JMU football. If JMU plays JMU football, the Dukes will run the table in 2019.”

The bottom line

Predictions are hard, and I prove that. Don’t fret, though. I’m not disheartened by my recent misfires, and I’m going to continue making educated (I think) predictions until my heart stops beating.

Regardless of my upcoming predictions, it should be a blast to discuss this JMU football season in the coming months. Camp is here, and the Dukes will play a meaningful football game this month. It’s an exciting time for JMU fans. There’s no need for wild predictions right now. Let’s all just sit back, relax and enjoy watching Ben DiNucci become the first FCS Heisman winner in college football history.

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