Why I’m Excited About JMU Football After Consecutive Losses

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

I don’t think any true JMU fan is happy when the football team loses, but after processing the team’s recent loss to Marshall, I’m arguably more excited for the rest of this season than I was a few weeks ago.

Don’t get me wrong, undefeated JMU was incredible. I loved seeing the Dukes break into the AP Top 25 for the first time in school history. Would it have been cool to argue that the 11-0 Dukes were deserving of a spot in the Cotton Bowl? Absolutely.

But entering the season, I was excited to see JMU fight for victories with minimal expectations on the program. That’s exactly what’s going to have to happen in the final four weeks of JMU’s season.

Injuries mounting, tough games left

JMU played Saturday without star quarterback Todd Centeio, arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the entire Group of 5. Centeio was (and still is, if he can come back healthy) in the mix for Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year.

His loss was felt Saturday as JMU struggled offensively in its 26-12 loss to Marshall. The Dukes are also without key players along the offensive line, defensive line, secondary, and at linebacker.

Injuries to contributors happen — it’s football — but the Dukes have had some particularly tough blows in recent weeks. That’s tough to overcome, especially against good opponents.

JMU has plenty of good opponents in the final half of its schedule. The Dukes lost to Georgia Southern and Marshall, likely bowl teams with wins over Power Five teams on their resume. They’re solid teams!

After their bye, the Dukes head to Louisville to face a team with notable wins over UCF and Pitt. The Cardinals have a dynamic quarterback in Malik Cunningham, and the defense has held four opponents under 20 points. JMU will be an underdog for only the second time this season.

A game against Louisville is followed by a rivalry game at ODU, which has wins over Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina. Then, the Dukes host Georgia State and Coastal Carolina.

Those are huge challenges, but as a fan, I’m not sure you can ask for more than three Sun Belt games and a matchup against a competent but beatable ACC team.

Minimal expectations

With a bunch of key injuries and no opportunity to play in the postseason due to FBS transition rules, there shouldn’t be much pressure on the Dukes in November. There also shouldn’t be high expectations from fans.

The rest of the season presents a few opportunities to secure meaningful wins. If the Dukes fall short, it’s fine! There’s not much to lose this November, but there is plenty to gain.

Beating Louisville would give JMU its first win over a Power Five team since defeating Virginia Tech in 2010.

A win over ODU would give the Dukes a rivalry victory and their first win over ODU in program history.

The Georgia State game isn’t all that important, but beating Coastal would mean taking down one of the Sun Belt’s top programs.

No offense to the first portion of JMU’s schedule, but I’ll take games against Louisville, Old Dominion, and Coastal Carolina over matchups with Middle Tennessee, Texas State, and Arkansas State any day of the week. Three of the final four games are right up there with matchups against App State and Marshall in terms of excitement and importance.

JMU should have minimal expectations in November, yet they have a few huge games left on the schedule. If nothing else, it should make for an entertaining month.

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