Liberty at James Madison FCS Football 2014 Playoffs 1st Round Game Breakdown

George Hammond


Liberty at James Madison, Saturday, 4:00

This is one of the more interesting first-round matchups as the two schools are just off Interstate 81 in Virginia. JMU (9-3, 6-2) made the tournament on the strength of its seven-game winning streak and a decisive win over Richmond two weeks ago. It’s the Dukes’ first playoff appearance since 2011. Their most notable playoff run came 10 years ago when JMU won the FCS national title.

Meanwhile, the Big South’s Flames (8-4) earned that league’s automatic bid with a 15-14 upset of previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina on Saturday. This will be Liberty’s first playoff appearance. The winner of this game will visit Villanova on December 6th. Liberty and JMU have met 17 times with the Dukes holding a 12-5 advantage. The last meeting came in 2011 when JMU prevailed 27-24.

The two teams had one common opponent this year. JMU demolished Richmond 55-20 while Liberty fell to the Spiders 46-39 in two overtimes.

Redshirt junior quarterback Vad Lee, a transfer from Georgia Tech, leads the Dukes’ attack. Lee has made JMU the number eight ranked offense in the nation, averaging 497 yards total offense per game. In addition, the Dukes are ranked 12th in passing offense, 16th in scoring offense and 20th in rushing offense. Lee has thrown for 3,323 yards and 29 touchdowns. He ranks fifth in passing yards and fourth in total offense.

But the Flames showed they can play defense on Saturday when they held previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina to just 14 points. Coastal had been averaging more than 30 points per game. Senior safety Jacob Hagen, who is ranked number one nationally in interceptions, leads that defense. Offensively, Josh Woodrum is the quarterback (No. 5 nationally in passing efficiency).

Statistically, neither appears outstanding on defense (Liberty is 52nd nationally and JMU is 92nd), but that’s where this game likely will be won. Both feast on turnovers (each team is in the top 25 nationally in turnover margin). Liberty can certainly win, but the Flames extended a lot of energy just to get to this point (beating Coastal Carolina on the road), while JMU had an easy time with Elon on Saturday. And with Lee, the Dukes have a weapon who will be hard to stop.

Projected Score: James Madison 31, Liberty 20


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