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FCS Game of the Week Preview: #1 James Madison at Delaware

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James Madison looks great, but this is a tricky test

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

Game Time: Saturday, September 30, 2017, 3:30 p.m. ET

Location: Delaware Stadium, Newark, Delaware

Where To Watch: CCSN

Betting Odds: James Madison -21, O/U 51

Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com


The James Madison Dukes have continued to look like the best team in the FCS through the first month of the 2017 season. James Madison knocked off both Sam Houston State and North Dakota State on it way to a national championship last year and already have a 20-point win over an FBS opponent this season.

This week they will face a tough test when they take on the Delaware Blue Hens. Delaware is a rejuvenated program under head coach Danny Rocco and has one of the best defenses in the country. The Blue Hens will be looking for revenge after being on the receiving end of a 43-20 beatdown at the hands of the Dukes last year.

Reasons to Like James Madison

The Dukes have looked fantastic this season. They have won all four of their games by at least 18 points and rank in the Top 5 in both total offense and total defense.

This is one of the best rushing attacks in the country. The Dukes are averaging almost 300 yards per game on the ground and have a great offensive line that opens big holes. They have blasted every run defense they have faced so far, including East Carolina’s.

Defense is what made this team a national title winner last year. The secondary is probably the best in the nation and the run defense is great too. No team has scored more than 14 points against this defense so far this year and Delaware will be hard pressed to eclipse that mark.

Reasons Not to Like James Madison

The Dukes don’t have many weaknesses, but one of them has been Bryan Schor’s proclivity to throw interceptions. He has thrown one interception in every game so far this season. Although he has been mostly efficient, those interceptions are worrisome.

Additionally, James Madison no longer has its leading rusher, Cardon Johnson. Johnson was lost for the year with a knee injury in the Norfolk State game and the team looked sluggish on offense last week without him. Marcus Marshall is a solid replacement, but doesn’t have the explosiveness that Johnson did.

Reasons to Like Delaware

The Blue Hens defense is amazing. Delaware has the fifth best run defense in the country and they are allowing opponents to run for just 2.27 yards per carry.

Those numbers include its game against Virginia Tech too. The Blue Hens limited the Hokies to just 303 total yards in Blacksburg earlier this season and have stifled their two FCS opponents pretty convincingly.

Additionally, history is working in the Blue Hens favor. Delaware almost knocked off James Madison the last time these teams met at home, but stumbled late and lost 24-21.

Reasons Not to Like Delaware

One of Rocco’s toughest tests since coming to Delaware has been to light a fire under this offense. Quarterback Joe Walker has improved under Rocco’s tutelage, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. He is at least completing over 50 percent of his passes this season and has doubled his passing yards per game, but the Blue Hens won’t find much success passing on the Dukes.

The offensive line is going to be tested against James Madison. Delaware’s offensive line has already allowed nine sacks this season and the Dukes know how to get to the passer. Expect Walker to be hounded all game by this defense.

Prediction

We’ve seen a lot of upsets already in the Colonial, but James Madison has stood head and shoulders above the rest. The Dukes are the undisputed best team in the conference and only North Dakota State can possibly claim to have a better team throughout the entire FCS.

However, Delaware has had an extra week off to prepare for this one and giving a coach like Rocco that much time will really help the Blue Hens. Delaware’s defense will keep this one close and give the Blue Hens an easy cover.

Final Score: James Madison 24, Delaware 14