Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pregame: James Madison vs. Maryland

Last week Maryland had a game they want to quickly forget, getting destroyed 52-13 against California after getting run over by Heisman-candidate Javhid Best. The Terps now return to College Park for their home opener against James Madison.

The Maryland Terrapins (0-1) host the James Madison Dukes (0-0) in what will be JMU's first game this season Last year they were a powerful 12-2 team, losing only to BCS-team Duke and FCS runner-up Montana. They come into the game ranked #6 in the FCS. So far JMU's conference, the CAA, has done some early damage to the ACC, with last weekend seeing them go 2-1 against the ACC: Richmond defeated Duke, William & Mary won over Virginia, and Northeastern fell to Boston College.

Only one have these two teams met, back in 1998. Maryland won 23-15, holding on after leading 23-0 in the third quarter.

This is the first game since the finishing of construction at Byrd Stadium. The name has been changed to Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium and will have the newly renovated Tyser Tower, luxury suites and all.

Scouting the Competition: James Madison Dukes

The Dukes come into their opener with big questions on offense. Their starting quarterback and top running back are gone from last season, so they will be testing out new people on offense. The quarterback duties will be split between returning junior Drew Dudzik and freshman Justin Thorpe as the Dukes employ the spread offense. Junior Jamal Sullivan will be the primary rusher.

The defense is where JMU is strongest. Their line has two very solid players. Senior defensive end Arthur Moats (pictured) tied the lead in the CAA with 11.5 sacks last season, and senior defensive tackle Sam Daniels had six last year. Behind the line will be a number of young players with nearly all expected starters being underclassmen. Sophomore linebacker Pat Williams is the returning leading tackler from last year with 65. One interesting story will lie with junior Griff Yancey, who will start as a free safety after being a running back the last two years.

One X-Factor could be the Dukes special teams returner, redshirt senior Scotty McGee, who had four returns for touchdowns last season, three of them being on punts.

Things to Look Out for the Game:
1. Will Chris Turner bounce back?
Turner had a terrible time against California, many times trying to get away from the constant-blitzes. JMU has a solid line and with Bruce Campbell out on Maryland's offensive line, even more inexperience will be defending the quarterback. Turner will be facing a young JMU secondary and will need to be good in the air attack. He has a history of bouncing back after a bad game; let's see if he does that today.

2. Will the offense adjust its play?
James Franklin playcalled terribly against California, leaving Chris Turner in terrible spots all game. The JMU defense will need to be beaten in the air, but the running game will still need to be established. With a problematic offensive line and a young secondary to face, he should have a number of shotgun passes and draws during the game.

3. Will the Terps underestimate JMU?
Normally when Maryland faces FCS opponents, they do not kill them, but they do not win handily either. This JMU team is preseason ranked #6 in FCS play and brings a lot of talent to the table. The Terps better be motivated to bounce back from that Cal loss, or else the Dukes could swipe one from Maryland.

These games against FCS opponents are always strange for the Terps, and with JMU's talent, this could be another one. In the end I will favor the Terps for the experience on the offensive end, though it will not be a blowout.

Maryland 20, James Madison 10

(Photo credit: Maryland athletics (Turner), JMU athletics (Moats))

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