There’s no question which has been the best team in the FCS all season. James Madison has looked unstoppable in 2017, beating every foe on its schedule by at least a touchdown. The Dukes won the national championship last season and have won 23 straight games. They were barely tested in the Colonial this season and beat FBS opponent East Carolina by 20 points.
James Madison will be facing a familiar foe in the first round when it hosts the Stony Brook Seawolves. Stony Brook is in the Colonial as well, but it hasn’t played the Dukes since 2015 because of the conference’s rotating schedule.
Stony Brook knocked off New Hampshire and Richmond in conference play this season and hung tough with South Florida until late in the fourth quarter in its opener. Last week, the Seawolves coasted in a win against Lehigh, but they face a much tougher test this time.
FCS Second Round Betting Odds
Stony Brook +20.5
James Madison -20.5
Matchup to Watch
In their first-round matchup, the Seawolves had the good fortune of facing the worst run defense in the entire FCS. Lehigh was allowing 6.5 yards per carry and only made the playoffs by virtue of winning an extremely weak Patriot League. It was no surprise to see Stony Brook shred this defense on the ground, and the Seawolves ran for 354 yards and six touchdowns in a 59-29 rout.
Now, the Seawolves will face one of the best run defenses in the nation in James Madison. The Dukes have been fantastic against ground games all season, only allowing opponents to pick up 2.4 yards per carry. In fact, the defense as a whole has been great, only allowing more than 300 yards to one FCS opponent and not allowing any offense to score more than 14 points all season.
Stony Brook does have a large offensive line, while James Madison has better depth than any other program along the defensive line. Although it didn’t show in the box score, Elon did have some success running inside against James Madison, so don’t be surprised to see Stony Brook do the same thing.
Keep an Eye On…
Opponents are going to try to force Bryan Schor to beat them throughout the postseason by cramming the box because he has not had the same success he did last season. He is averaging a full two yards less per pass attempt while also throwing almost twice as many interceptions. Some of that is because he has worse pass protection than he did last year, but he isn’t making good decisions either.
Stony Brook’s pass defense has some holes in it. The Seawolves allowed Lehigh to throw for more than 300 yards on them last week, and they are allowing 227 yards through the air per game. Schor can definitely have some success against this unit, and he will need to in order for James Madison to cover the hefty spread. If he struggles, this will become a defensive slugfest.
Mike Houston’s rise through the coaching ranks has been meteoric. Houston has never played or coached at the FBS level, but he has succeeded everywhere he has been. He won three conference titles in as many seasons at Lenoir-Rhyne before The Citadel hired him in 2014. After a rebuilding year, he led the Bulldogs to their first conference title in 23 years in 2015, and he was subsequently hired by James Madison. He is a stellar 25-1 as the Dukes head coach with the lone loss coming at the hands of North Carolina.
Defense has been the key for James Madison these last two years and it’s hard to imagine Stony Brook getting to more than 14 points against a unit this deep and talented. As good as the front seven is, the secondary is even more talented and Joe Carbone will have a hard time throwing on this unit.
With that being said, I feel that this is a few too many points so I think Stony Brook is the better side. However, the best play is the under as James Madison will be content to just run the ball and trust its defense once it gets out to a lead.
Pick: Under 48.5