Previewing James Madison

UNC opens the 2011 season on Saturday against a two hundred and sixty year old founding father. One of delicate health, if I recall. So unless he somehow makes Kenan Stadium the second Louisiana Purchase and buys  the university out from under the Heels, Carolina should be OK.

Wait, belay that. Apparently I've just been informed that UNC will be playing an FCS school from Virginia, not an exhumed corpse. This makes the game a little more difficult, I suppose.

So what can we expect from JMU? The Dukes made a big splash last season when the knocked off Virginia Tech, behind a late-game series of offensive heroics from quarterback Drew Dudzik. James Madison's season went downhill from there, however, as they finished 6-5 for the second straight year. The defense was strong, and that looks to continue this season, as much of the starters are returning, especially in the secondary. JMU had the twelfth-best defense in the FCS, and held Virginia Tech to its lowest scoring output of the season. UNC will be testing that defense with a experienced receiving corps and a very green quarterback. One advantage his that the front rush isn't particularly strong, and Carolina's offensive line should give Bryn Renner time to throw.

It's the offense that did JMU in last season, and most of that offense is gone. The leading returning rusher and passer is... a wide receiver, Dae'Quan Scott. The new man under center is a Kansas State transfer, Billy Cosh. Cosh owns practically every high school passing record in Maryland, but left Manhattan before seeing the field; we don't really know how he'll perform, but odds are it'll be pretty good. There's not much to the running game at the moment, so Cosh and Scott will be the primary threats.

All and all, Carolina should win this game, handily. But I wasn't kidding when I said one of the biggest chances for ACC embarrassment was this game though. There's a lot of untested folks on the field (or the sidelines) for this game – new quarterbacks, a new coach, and folks we haven't seen play in over a year. UNC's running game and their own defensive prowess will pull them through, but it can still go badly. Here's hoping it doesn't.

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