1) Bye Week – Richmond’s start to the season has been, to say the least, disappointing. The Spiders found themselves 2-3 heading into their bye week, with two of the losses coming on last-second field goals and the third coming at home to Maine. Richmond has had spurts, such as the first half of the North Carolina State game, where it has looked like an elite FCS team, but overall, the team has played below expectations. This bye week gave the Spiders an opportunity to make adjustments and to figure out a way to play at a high level for a full game. Richmond has an opportunity on national television to get on the right track against 19th ranked James Madison, whom the Spiders upset last season at Robins Stadium, 35-29.
2) Richmond as the Underdogs – This is the Spiders’ first game of the season where they are underdogs against an FCS team, but they are not unfamiliar of this role. Richmond was a heavy underdog heading into the NC State game, and the Spiders responded by playing, in my opinion, the best they have all year. For Richmond fans, hopefully this change of position will give the Spiders a chip on their soldiers heading into an important conference game.
3) JMU’s Defensive Duo – Stephen Robertson and Gage Steele lead a strong JMU defense. The two linebackers, who are the only players in the CAA to average more then 10 tackles per game, combine to average 22.3 tackles per game. Robertson came into the season with a lot of hype after being selected as the CAA Preseason Defensive Player of the Year award, and so far he has lived up to it. Steele is a redshirt freshman who won rookie of the week honors after recording 18 tackles in a win over Albany last Saturday. Robertson and Steele could give the Spiders fits this Saturday, especially in the running game. With that being said…
Keys to a Richmond victory:
1) Michael Strauss – Robertson and Steele lead the CAA’s 2nd best run defense, which has allowed 102.5 yards per game, while Richmond has the league’s worst run offense. Michael Strauss will need to carry the load for the Spiders this week, which has been the case for much of the season. Richmond’s offense has not clicked as of late, but Strauss has shown he can play well even when he does not have a running game. Strauss played one of the best games of his career against NC State when Richmond rushed for a mere 22 yards. Strauss may need a similar performance this week to give the Spiders a chance to win.
2) Contain Dae’Quan Scott – JMU running back Dae’Quan Scott has been the focal point of JMU’s offense this year. Scott, who is second in the CAA and seventh in the nation in rushing yards per game with 121.8 yards per game, will be a handful for the Spiders. Good running teams, such as NC State and Maine, have had success running against the Spiders this year. On the positive side for the Spiders, DL Kerry Wynn is expected to play after missing two games, and Richmond’s defensive line looked much better with Wynn. If the Spiders’ can contain Scott and force JMU into long third downs, the Spiders should be in a good position to win.
Prediction – 31-27 James Madison – I expect Strauss will play a great game, but Scott will be too much for the Spiders defense, and JMU will pull out a close victory.