Well this is a first: previewing a James Madison game on college football odds. The Dukes of the FCS are 14-point underdogs. That total is one of the highest of Week 4 action.
Scouting James Madison
James Madison plays in the Colonial Athletic Association and is in the Top 10 of both major FCS polls. The Dukes haven't been tested much yet, beating Morehead State 56-7 in their season opener, Lehigh 55-17 in Week 2 and then last Saturday, Albany 42-28. Vad Lee was 24-for-35 for 275 yards and four touchdowns in that one, also adding 72 yards rushing. But Lee also was a turnover machine, throwing five picks and losing a fumble. Junior running back Khalid Abdullah (143 yards, 28 carries) and redshirt sophomore running back Cardon Johnson (134 yards, 17 carries) each topped 100 yards.
The teams went into halftime tied at 14, but James Madison scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions of the second half. The Dukes have had at least 600 yards of offense in each game this season. It's the first time they have done that in three straight games. JMU also picked up 40 first downs against Albany, a school record. The Dukes are 3-0 for the first time since 2010. They are first in the FCS in total offense (652.0 ypg) and scoring (51 ppg).
"Anytime you don't play very well and have 625 yards of total offense and 42 points, that's pretty good," JMU coach Everett Withers said afterward. "I'm really proud of the way our guys battled today, though. We're still not a very good football team, so we'll go back to work and hopefully come back next week."
Withers is a former Ohio State assistant who was hired by James Madison in December 2013. Withers was one of OSU coach Urban Meyer's first assistant hires after he took over in Columbus. Meyer named the former North Carolina defensive coordinator and 2011 interim head coach the Buckeyes' co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach in December 2011. This is Withers' first head coaching gig. Withers was reprimanded this week by the Colonial Athletic Association for his postgame comments critical of the officiating crew at the Albany game. The Dukes were penalized nine times for 95 yards, including five holding calls. Withers said the crew "stunk."
This is James Madison's only game vs. an FBS school in 2015. It played at Maryland last season and lost 52-7.
Mustangs Already Look Much Improved
SMU was perhaps the worst FBS program in the nation last year. But the team appears to have made a home-run hire of former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris as its head coach. Morris is a Texas boy through and through. He spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas, going 32-0 and winning a pair of state championships in his only two seasons at Lake Travis in the Austin area. Clemson had one of the best offenses in the country under him.
The Mustangs opened the season with a 56-21 loss against No. 4 Baylor. They rebounded in Week 2 with a 31-13 win over North Texas. And SMU was quite competitive in Saturday's 56-37 loss at No. 3 TCU in the Battle for the Iron Skillet (love that!). The Mustangs, who have covered all three games on college football odds, were within five points with less than seven minutes left in the game after scoring 20 consecutive points before the Frogs pulled away. SMU had 508 yards of offense.
Mustangs QB Matt Davis, a former backup to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M, was 17-for-31 for a career-high 330 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed 17 times for 62 yards and two scores. SMU did not have a turnover. That snapped TCU’s nationally-leading streak of 27 games with at least one takeaway. SMU had a 32:57 to 27:03 advantage in time of possession. It entered the game third in the FBS at 36:51 of average time of possession. The 37 points were the most ever for SMU against a Top 5 team.
SMU's next win would already top last year's total. This is also Homecoming on campus. Take SMU with one of your college football picks.
College Football Picks: SMU -14 Over 73 at 5Dimes