The Sports Network
By David Coulson, Director of FCS Football
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 29th, 3 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field (15,500) -- Harrisonburg, Virginia. Surface: Field Turf. Television: None. Home Record: Wofford 6-0; James Madison 6-0. Away Record: Wofford 3-2; James Madison 4-1. Series Record: James Madison (1-0). Last Meeting: October 25, 1980 (James Madison, 3-0 at JMU). Conference: Wofford - Southern; James Madison - Colonial Athletic Association. Sports Network Ranking: Wofford (8); James Madison (1). Nicknames: Wofford Terriers; James Madison Dukes. Coaches: Wofford - Mike Ayers (21 years, 152-116-2); James Madison - Mickey Matthews (10 years, 74-45).
GAME NOTES: James Madison worked hard to earn the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs and a home-field advantage for the first three rounds. And the Dukes reward was one of the toughest opponents in the 16-team field.
JMU spent eight weeks at the top of the FCS poll, but now the Dukes will have to transition into a new role after garnering the top seed for the first time. In its eight previous appearances in the postseason, JMU is 6-7, but four of those wins came when the Dukes won the 2004 national championship.
James Madison is just 3-5 in first round games, including a 35-31 loss at Youngstown State in 2006 and a 28-27 defeat at Appalachian State last season.
Wofford received its second-consecutive bid to the playoffs and third overall since moving to FCS in 1997. The Terriers were semifinalists in 2003, losing to eventual national champion Delaware, and advanced to the quarterfinals in 2007, beating No. 3-seeded Montana on the road 23-22 before losing 21-10 to Richmond at home.
The Terriers should be cause for concern for the Dukes, with a disciplined option offense (343 yards per game, second in FCS). Leading that attack is quarterback Ben Widmyer (1,190 yards passing 10 TDs, two interceptions, 702 yards rushing, 10 TDs). Fullback Dane Romero leads the team with 991 yards rushing and 19 TDs.
Widmyer's top targets are speedster Andy Strickland (31 catches, 19.2 average, seven TDs) and sure-handed tight end Fenn Allen (13 receptions, 17.1, one TD).
Wofford's defense, since giving up 70 points in a road loss at Appalachian State on Halloween night, has been nothing less than stellar. In the three games since, the Terriers have yielded a meager five points per game. The Terriers are strongest against the against the run, surrendering 116 yards per game. One of the primary reasons the Terriers are formidable against the run is their talented corps of linebackers led by Seth Goldwire (86 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions) and James Mitchell (74 tackles, 6.5 sacks). But the Wofford pass defense has struggled, giving up 246 yards per game (101st in FCS). In all, the Wofford is allowing opponents 23.6 points (50th) and 362 yards (77th).
Outside of the loss to ASU, Wofford has been one of the top turnover margin teams in the country.
As good as Wofford has been on defense, the JMU offense might take comfort in the Terriers' loss to Appalachian State. That night, the Wofford defense could only watch as Payton Award candidate Armanti Edwards put up one of his best individual performances of the season against the Terriers, totaling 440 yards of total offense in the win.
Fellow Payton Award candidate Rodney Landers (1,236 passing yards, 15 TDs, three interception, 1,377 rushing yards, 14 TDs) will be the one lining up under center to face the Wofford defense just four weeks after Edwards' big night. Landers is a bigger, stronger presence at the signal-callers' position and is a more physically imposing runner than Edwards.
Landers helps lead the nation's second-best rush offense (279 yards per game) and the fourth-ranked total offense (395 yards per game). Landers teams with Eugene Holloman (778 yards, seven TDs) and Griff Yancey (439 rushing yards, 10 TDs, team-leading 18 catches, three TDs) in the backfield, while Rockeed McCarter (16 catches, 15.6 yards per catch, three TDs) acts as the big target in the passing game with his big-time speed.
Kick returner Scotty McGee has been a huge weapon for the Dukes, sparking two critical wins over Appalachian State and Richmond with a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns. McGee ranks second nationally in kickoff returns (34.5 average) and 15th in punt returns (13.6), with four touchdowns.
Expect JMU's defense to get tested by Wofford's wingbone attack, which combines the Jim Brakefield (former Wofford and Appalachian State coach) wishbone with the Delaware Wing-T. In the past few years, Ayers has added some shotgun formation to the Terrier arsenal.
Look for Wofford to attack the JMU defense with plenty of counters and mixing in some well-timed passing. The Dukes have shown some vulnerability at times with pass defense (175 yards per game) and the Terriers will look to attack with play-action.
JMU has done a solid job at stopping the run (121 yards per game). Free safety Marcus Haywood (76 tackles, four interceptions) is a run-stopper, while defensive end Arthur Moats (44 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, seven sacks) and defensive tackle Sam Daniels (31 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) offer solid play along the defensive line.
Ball control will be a huge key for both teams, with the team winning the time of possession and turnover battles likely to emerge as the winner.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Wofford 28, James Madison 21.
11/27 11:27:41 ET