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FCS Playoffs Quarterfinals Preview: Weber State at No. 1 James Madison

Can the Dukes keep their winning streak alive?

NCAA Football: D1 Football Championship Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Friday, December 8, 2017, 7 p.m. ET

Location: Bridgeforth Stadium, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Where To Watch: ESPN2

Betting Odds: James Madison -12, O/U 41

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com


The James Madison Dukes are on a 24-game winning streak and looking to make it 25 this week when they take on the Weber State Wildcats. Both teams took care of business in the second round last week, dispatching of their opponents by double digits, but the Dukes are decent favorites in this one for a reason.

Reasons to Like James Madison

Really, what’s not to like about the Dukes? James Madison has been the No. 1 team all year long and has steamrolled over pretty much every team it has faced. The Dukes have a great run defense and one of the best pass defenses in the country too.

James Madison has picked off an FCS high 24 passes this season. This secondary flustered Stony Brook’s Joe Carbone all game last week and forced him to throw five interceptions while holding his completion rate under 50 percent. The Dukes are allowing just five yards per pass attempt this season, by far the best number in the FCS.

Additionally, the Dukes have Bryan Schor. Schor gets the good fortune of being the signal caller for the best team in the country and has proven himself more than capabale time and time again. He came up big when the run game was stuffed last week and made play after play with his arm.

Reasons Not to Like James Madison

About that run game...the Dukes could only muster 49 yards on 38 carries against the Seawolves last week. That has been a worrisome problem for James Madison as the ground game has not been as good as you’d expect for a team like this. The Dukes are averaging 4.6 yards per carry, and while this number certainly isn’t bad, it’s the weakest area of this team.

Reasons to Like Weber State

The one time that James Madison looked vulnerable was when it faced off against Kyle Lauletta and Richmond. Lauletta is probably going to be an NFL draft pick and was able to pick apart this defense pretty well.

Weber State’s Stefan Cantwell probably won’t be an NFL draft pick, but he is quite possibly the second-best quarterback James Madison has faced this season. Cantwell was huge in the Wildcats’ upset win over Southern Utah last week and torched Cal’s defense earlier in the season too.

The Wildcats also have a solid defense and a playmaker at cornerback in Taron Johnson. Johnson was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and showed that he can be a shutdown corner when given the opportunity.

Reasons Not to Like Weber State

Weber State’s rushing numbers are slightly worse than James Madison’s. The Wildcats are only averaging 4.4 yards per carry and have had trouble establishing the run against better defenses. That led to some trouble putting away opponents in Big Sky play and that cant happen against James Madison.

Additionally, it’s always tough to play cross country with less time to rest and prepare than your opponent. The Wildcats played in the late game last Saturday and will lose an extra half day due to travel. That will give James Madison another advantage.

Prediction

James Madison is going to have a raucous home crowd for a nationally televised game. This should be tight for three quarters, but in the end I expect the Dukes’ depth to prevail.

Final Score: James Madison 27, Weber State 17