Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin and Jack Fitzpatrick

Bennett and I are shaping up for a trip down to Norfolk, Va. to take in this game in person.

So without much to add in the lead in, let’s dive right into this week’s roundtable!

What was your top takeaway from JMU’s 34-10 loss to Louisville?

Bennett: JMU is good, but not an elite team this season. I was too high on the Dukes entering the week, expecting them to keep it close and saying they could stay close against most top-25 teams. That might be a stretch, especially with some of the injuries the team is dealing with this late in the season. JMU has a good team, but they have some flaws (including depth) that have been exposed by better opponents. That’s totally understandable in Year 1 of the FBS transition. 

Jack: JMU is good, and is extremely dependent on high level QB play. But I mean, what college team isn’t? Before the injury, Todd Centeio was playing at Sun Belt Player of the Year level and I could have put together a thesis on why he should win Heisman. But now, after the injury, the offense has come to a screeching halt. The play calling can’t figure it out and I never truly realized how important ELITE level QB play was to a Cignetti offense. 

What does JMU need to happen to win Saturday at ODU?

Bennett: Hit a big play or two! The offense has looked stagnant the last two weeks, failing to score in the second half. JMU could really use an increase in explosive plays, and I’d love to see Kaelon Black get more touches at running back to help increase gains of 10+ yards. Even just one or two gains of 20+ yards could be the difference against an Old Dominion team with a woeful offense. I want to see some explosive plays from the Dukes, and there should be opportunities Saturday. 

Jack: Find the end zone and play Kaelon Black. I am not 100 percent sure on this stat, but when Black is in and gets the majority of targets on a drive the JMU offense scores a touchdown 75 percent of the time. 

In all reality the offense just needs to have a long scoring drive once or twice. I think the Dukes can win this game with subpar offensive play as ODU’s offense is not all that great, but they will need to find the endzone a few times to come away with the win. Field goals and rushing into a stacked box won’t cut it. 

Do you think recent alumni/current students view ODU as a rival?

Bennett: The older heads love the ODU rivalry, mostly due to some heated men’s and women’s basketball games over the years. I haven’t really experienced those, but I think there’s a willingness of younger fans to have Old Dominion be a rival. I’m excited about what this game could mean to current students and younger alumni in future seasons, and JMU getting its first win in the football series would only help develop that rivalry. 

I also think the rivalry will grow gradually among the younger fans as other sports face off in meaningful events. Women’s soccer fell to ODU 4-3 in the Sun Belt title game, and while that’s not a huge deal to most casual students, every conference matchup between the teams will add history to the rivalry. If the basketball programs and softball and baseball teams have a few competitive games this season, it’ll be easy for the younger fans to quickly get on board with the rivalry.

Jack: I don’t think recent alumni, and current students view this as a rivalry at all. JMU Men’s Basketball hasn’t been good for quite some time and those matchups really never sparked anything the last decade. 

Like Bennett said, this has all the makings on becoming a fantastic rivalry between the in state foes. 

We’re going to the game! Our first game of the year. Excitement level for being in attendance?

Bennett: I can’t wait! I’ve heard significant buzz from JMU fans about attending this game, and I’m curious to see the split between ODU and JMU fans. It should be an electric atmosphere. Hopefully the game matches the hype.

Jack: Oh, I am HYPE! This is my first JMU Football game away from bridgeforth, my first since 2019 and just my 5th (?) all time game seeing the Dukes play as a fan! I am so excited to get to ODU and root for the Dukes with Bennett and good friend and friend of the podcast, Brian Reese. 

What’s your score prediction?

Bennett: JMU wins 20-10. I’m expecting a low-scoring game as each defense finds success. I think the Dukes find enough offensively to prevail.

Jack: I forgot what I said on the podcast, but I am going to go with 17-14. The two offensive drives will be when Kaelon Black is in, and ODU’s stud WR Jennings will feast and score 2 TDs. I think it will be a grind it out, ugly game that will have us all on the edge of our seats for 60 minutes. 

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