By Jack Fitzpatrick
That has been this Dukes team, they have an average margin of victory of 28 points and were only truly tested once this season.
We all remember right?
That overtime thriller against Stony Brook that gave us all enough heart-stopping moments courtesy of Tyquell Fields & co. to fill the whole season. Since then, they have strung together seven dominant wins, averaging 46.6 points per game and allowing just 15 per game.
Before the season I said that this was a critical year for JMU football. They had the best roster on paper we had seen in a long time, if not ever, and I thought JMU had to have a dominant year to continue to be mentioned in the same breath as NDSU.
And they have done just that.
Let me air this out early on though, this isn’t a satire piece like the one from earlier this week. I am also not saying this Dukes team is historically better. NDSU is historically dominant and no one will ever touch what they have done in the last decade. I am saying JMU is better and more complete this season. From their roster to the coaching staff, I believe when looking at just this season JMU is greater than NDSU. (Ducks from inevitable backlash from Bison faithful.)
Based on the eye test alone this year they have dominated team after team and they stood toe-to-toe with a West Virginia team, albeit in a down year, but still an FBS team with more scholarships and more “starred” recruits on their roster.
Then the playoffs come and nothing changes, they have shown they can hang points up in an almost comically easy fashion against a league champion, and the Dukes have shown they can get an early lead and, like a python, constrict the opponent until there is no time left and they are lifeless.
In the playoffs this season, JMU has scored 38 points per game, and are allowing just 12. The defense is firing on all cylinders and the offense is doing exactly what is needed.
We have seen that this defensive line has two real studs that could potentially make it in the NFL, in Ron’dell Carter and John Daka, and not to mention the interior defensive linemen in Mike Greene and Adeeb Atariwa that give the guys on the edge the opportunity to get after the quarterback. We have seen such a dominant defensive line that the problems in the secondary can get covered up a good amount.
I am not taking anything from what Trey Lance has done at the helm of the Bison, and how Matt Entz has lead this team in his first season as head coach.
Together they have created the most efficient passing attack in the nation, and the freshman QB has thrown a whopping zero interceptions. They boast one of the most dominant offensive lines in the nation. They are first in tackles for loss allowed with just 3.47 per game, and fifth in sacks allowed per game with .80, not even a full sack allowed per game.
The Bison defensive side of the ball is just as scary. They are second in the nation in total defense and first in scoring defense. Led by sophomore linebacker Jackson Hankey with 110 tackles, this defense is as stout as they come, almost as stout as a Guinness from Ireland.
I already talked about the eye test, which is totally subjective and my personal bias may be affecting that. I’ll go to the cold hard stats and numbers to back why JMU is having a better year than NDSU.
JMU’s offense is potent. They are second in the nation in scoring offense racking up 41.3 points per. They have scored more than 40 points in a game (7 times) more times they have scored less than 20 (twice, one of which was a 17-0 playoff game shutout against UNI). They have a four-headed beast in the backfield, between Agyei-Obese, Hamilton, Palmer and Vanhorse, they have the postseason master on one side of the hash in Riley Stapleton and FBS transfer Brandon Polk who had one of the best regular seasons for a Dukes’ wide receiver in school history.
JMU can hurt you in a variety of ways on offense, and their biggest question mark coming into the season, quarterback Ben DiNucci, has just put up his best collegiate season. We all know he won the CAA offensive player of the year while also being the nation’s second-most efficient passer and completing 71.3 percent of his passes, which is good enough for the best in the nation.
I’ll wrap it up with this very scientific take. If you take all of the most important (what I gauge as most important) team statistics, total offense and defense and scoring offense and defense, and average out the ranking JMU is at 3.75 and NDSU is at 4.
I realize at this point it is just rambling about stats and numbers and my eye test. JMU fans will most likely agree with me here that the Dukes are having a better overall season this year from top to bottom, while NDSU fans are stretching their twitter fingers to attack this article and that’s what makes this week so much fun. It is all talk, and come Saturday at noon eastern, for 60 minutes, all of this will be settled.