JMU coach heaps praise on Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN - All things considered, James Madison has little chance of upsetting No. 9 West Virginia when the teams play Saturday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
That's not to say it can't happen, but the instances of FCS teams beating FBS programs are rare, particularly when the FBS program is ranked in the Top 10.
Yes, those upsets happen and they seem to be happening with more frequency. Through the first two weeks of this season, eight FCS teams have beaten big brothers from the FBS. But there are also more games being played between those from different levels, so the percentage of upsets remains minuscule.
But if James Madison is to compete with West Virginia, the Dukes would seem to be in a position of having to slow down what is rapidly becoming one of the most potent offenses in college football, one that in its last two games has averaged 69.5 points and 622 yards of total offense, while not turning the ball over once.
"Your first objective is to get them to punt,'' James Madison coach Mickey Matthews said this week. "If you get them to punt you feel like you're doing well. They don't like to punt and they don't have to punt much.''
Well, Matthews is likely to have some things ready to try and stop West Virginia and force some punts. His background is, after all, defense, including stints at Marshall and Georgia. But even he wonders what can be done with an offense that features Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
"I don't know if you can really get ready. You've got to try and get ready against those guys, but you're probably - not probably, you are - competing against the guy that's going to win the Heisman Trophy,'' Matthews said, referring to Smith. "I don't know if he'll win it, but he'll certainly get invited to New York. And then you'll have two guys who will be carrying his suitcase catching passes from him.
"So you've got three great players on offense. The rest of those guys are pretty good, but certainly those three guys, when you watch the tape, that's basically all you watch.''
In talking about - or talking up, if you will - Smith, Matthews makes a comparison that few would probably connect.
"He's an Aaron Brooks clone,'' Matthews said, referring to the former Virginia and New Orleans Saints quarterback. "When I was at Georgia we played Virginia in the Peach Bowl. I was coaching the defense, and getting ready to play Aaron Brooks was a huge concern.
"[Smith] is an Aaron Brooks clone. He throws sideline patterns to the wide side of the field. That's a long throw. He has a great arm. But the biggest thing he does is he just plays with a lot of confidence, as all their offensive players do. Whether they're playing Marshall or Clemson or whoever they're playing, they think they're going to do it. In addition to being talented they're a very confident group.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.