Can UVA Pull Stunning Upset Over Football Powerhouse JMU?

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By An Intelligent Sports Mind

It’s no surprise to see JMU football favored Saturday in the Dukes’ first game against UVA since 1983. Since that game, the two programs have gone in different directions.

For UVA, the football program became a fun distraction leading into the men’s basketball season. For JMU, the standard became winning national championships.

This begs the question entering Saturday: Can UVA pull the monumental upset over the best team in Virginia?

Folks, I’m not loving UVA’s chances of upsetting the state’s flagship program. And frankly, I don’t love their chances later this fall of upsetting the team Brent Pry mistakenly referred to as Virginia’s flagship program.

Scholarship differential

One of the main reasons I don’t like UVA’s chances Saturday is the recent scholarship differential between the programs. Even if the two sides are technically playing with equal scholarships in 2023, the differential in recent years creates a potential depth disparity that takes time to overcome.

JMU operated with 63 full scholarships prior to last fall, which the Dukes did as a courtesy to even the playing field with other Virginia colleges.

UVA, on the other hand, only had 27 ACC-caliber players on the roster in 2018, according to former head coach Bronco Mendenhall. News flash! Virginia plays in the ACC.

So basically, Virginia had the equivalent of 27 scholarship players in 2018. JMU had 63 that season.

I’m just a dumb ole JMU fan who sucks at math, so we hired a Virginia graduate to figure out the scholarship differential between the programs in 2018. The UVA graduate called us with an answer to our math problem, but I quickly shouted “Nerd!” as they tried to tell me their response.

“Nerd?! Are you a student at JMU? You better believe your academic advisor will hear about this. Calling me a nerd is grounds for expulsion!” they yelled.

“Grounds? It’s called campus,” I replied before quickly hanging up.

Hanging up before receiving the answer to the question was a mistake. But the scholarship differential was at least 22. That’s a big gap and it takes time to address those depth concerns.

Monmouth connections

Virginia’s starting quarterback in the season opener against Tennessee, Tony Muskett, transferred to Virginia from Monmouth.

In 2019, JMU defeated Monmouth 66-21.

By our basic math — the Virginia graduate wouldn’t do any more calculations for us after we insulted them over the phone — that means JMU will likely win 66-21 this weekend.

That sounds about right.

Surprise! JMU can pass

What kind of a subhead is this? What is this guy talking about?

Let me explain. JMU threw for 15 yards in the first half against Bucknell, arguably one of the seven best teams in the Patriot League. Fans were shocked. What’s wrong with the passing game??

Then Jordan McCloud came in during the second half and threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 7-11 passing. Surprise! JMU can pass.

Did JMU have an alarmingly bad passing first half against a lower-tier FCS team? Hell no. This is JMU we’re talking about. The standard is the standard.

The Dukes intentionally didn’t throw successfully Saturday because they wanted to throw UVA’s coaches off. See what they did there?

Just imagine it. Tony Elliott sits down to watch the film and sees that JMU didn’t pass for more than 20 yards in an entire half against Bucknell, one of the teams that plays college football in Pennsylvania.

“They can’t throw!” Elliott reports to his team.

Surprise! JMU can pass. The Dukes just don’t want anyone to know about the potent passing game yet. Curt Cignetti, you goddamn mastermind!

Upset unlikely

Is it possible Virginia beats JMU, a two-time national champion? Sure, people made it to the moon.

Clemson, which has also won two national titles since 2000, defeated Virginia 41-23 the last time the two teams met. Two meetings ago, Clemson won 62-17. Three meetings ago? 59-10 Clemson.

That’s not great news for UVA fans going into Saturday.

Unfortunately, if UVA does win, JMU fans will have to deal with Virginia fans and their maddening little brother mentality.

“In 20 years, we could make it to the Sun Belt!” UVA fans love to say. “We could compete there now, honestly.”

If you say so!

“When the playoff expands to 12, we’re going to be in prime position to qualify! Never mind the fact that we’ve never even had an undefeated season in the last 50 years,” Virginia fans holler.

Riiiiight. Keep telling yourself that.

You don’t always have to try so hard, UVA fans. We get it, you have a D1 football team.

The little brother mentality can be frustrating at times, but largely UVA fans are good people. They mean well, even if they’re overly eager.

And if UVA does win, good for UVA sports fans. It can’t be easy waiting all fall for men’s basketball season to arrive only to lose to a random mid-major in March.

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