SMU CW staff previews homecoming game against James Madison

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Photo credit: Ryan Miller

The SMU Mustangs will take on the James Madison Dukes on Saturday, Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. in the annual homecoming game. Here’s a look at what the SMU Campus Weekly staff expects the outcome to be.

Brian O’Donnell, Sports Editor:

SMU will certainly come into this week’s matchup against James Madison University with confidence. After battling two top-five teams in the first three weeks, this matchup is sure to be a relief for the Mustangs as they close out their 2015 non-conference schedule.

Despite the fact that SMU won’t have to deal with a team as talented as TCU or Baylor, this week might not be a change of pace. JMU has jumped out to a 3-0 record this season and scored an average of 51 points per game.

The Dukes are led by senior quarterback Vad Lee, a duel threat transfer from Georgia Tech, who has helped the JMU offense average 652 yards per game this season. His experience against FBS competition and the Dukes’ high scoring attack tells me that JMU is not going to be a walk in the park.

SMU cannot forget that JMU knocked off No. 13 Virginia Tech in 2010. The Mustangs are going to have to score and the defense is going to have to step up. Giving up 56 points to TCU and Baylor is understandable but that cannot happen this week.

Lee and JMU have shown a propensity to turn the ball over, already losing seven interceptions and two fumbles this year. SMU will need to take advantage of the Dukes mistakes to prevent this game from becoming a shootout.

Despite my concern that SMU might not take this game as seriously as they should, I think the Mustangs will take care of business. I expect Matt Davis and Courtland Sutton to have big games against a team that simply will not be able to matchup with them.

PREDICTION: SMU 49 – JMU 28

Breck Spencer, Associate Sports Editor:

It’s hard for me to imagine a scenario where SMU (1-2) loses this weekend to James Madison University (3-0). In just the first three games of the 2015 season, we have already seen a completely different SMU team under new head coach Chad Morris than the one we witnessed last season.

The new Mustang offense has already put up 89 points, which took the team nine games to surpass last year. They scored 21 points against Baylor and 37 points against TCU, both of whom shut them out in 2014.

Furthermore, considering that both of SMU’s losses have come from top-five teams, the 1-2 record doesn’t accurately represent what SMU has shown in the first three games or give an accurate projection for the rest of the season. Already, SMU has demonstrated balance, accumulating 1321 yards of offense split evenly between rushing and passing.

Not to dismiss JMU’s impressive undefeated start, but none of their wins have come against FBS opponents, making SMU, on paper, their biggest game of the season. I truly believe that the momentum the Mustangs are bringing into the game from a promising start to the season, their hunger for a win, and an inevitably rowdy home crowd will make this an easy win for the Mustangs.

PREDICTION: SMU 49 – JMU 10

Patrick Engel, Sports Staff Writer:

SMU is done playing top-five opponents, but James Madison University shouldn’t be overlooked. In 2010, the Dukes shocked then top-ten foe Virginia Tech, albeit under a different coaching staff. Current head coach Everett Withers spent two season as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator before guiding JMU to the FCS playoffs in 2014, his inaugural year on the job. He’s also coached in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans.

JMU is ranked ninth in the FCS coaches poll, and armed with a high-scoring offense that aims to move fast. Quarterback Vad Lee is a Georgia Tech transfer. While he’s not running the triple option like he did for the Yellow Jackets, he’s still playing in an offense that suits his athleticism and dual-threat ability. He’s helped the Dukes average 51 points and 652 yards per game in three games this season.

JMU will look to tire out SMU’s defense like Baylor and TCU did, but I’m not sure it has the speed or athletes to really but a strain on the Mustangs’ defense. Defensive coordinator Van Malone can exploit Lee’s inexperience as a passer by using a lot of different coverages like SMU did against Baylor and mixing in some disguised coverages and blitzes.

Lee has thrown eight touchdowns, but also seven interceptions and didn’t throw the ball a lot running the triple option. If SMU can force him into mistakes and turnovers, it should win handily on homecoming weekend. JMU’s defense has been solid through three games, but Matt Davis and Co. should be able to operate easily. While JMU isn’t an ordinary FCS team, it’s still an FCS team.

PREDICTION: SMU 49 – JMU 14

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