James Madison just keeps on winning. The Dukes have now won 24 games in a row after easily taking care of business against Stony Brook last weekend. The Dukes should be the favorite to win it all at this point, but they do have a much tougher road than the North Dakota State Bison.
Case in point, this week the Dukes will host a team that has a puncher’s chance to knock them off. Weber State showed the FCS selection committee why it should have been given a national seed after knocking off Southern Utah in the second round last week. The Wildcats are peaking at just the right time, and their performance last week was one of their most complete games of the season.
FCS Quarterfinals Betting Odds
Weber State +12.5
James Madison -12.5
Keep an Eye On…
Stefan Cantwell put together an outstanding performance last week against a good Thunderbirds defense and showed why he is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the FCS.
Cantwell has been getting it done all season. Although this is his first year as the starter, a lot was expected of the JUCO transfer and he has delivered. He has thrown for over 2,700 yards and has been very efficient. Cantwell has only tossed six interceptions and has found the end zone 23 times.
Additionally, he can turn it upfield and run. He showed off his wheels against Southern Utah last week, running for 105 yards and a score. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he is somewhat elusive and Jay Hill is more comfortable running him now that it’s do or die in the postseason.
This will be Cantwell’s toughest test yet, though. There is no defense better at stopping opposing passers than James Madison—just ask Joe Carbone, who was picked off five times by Dukes defenders last week and noticeably lost his cool as his receivers failed to get separation time and time again.
The Dukes are allowing just five yards per pass attempt, the best number in the FCS by a quarter of a yard.
Matchup to Watch
We saw James Madison’s game plan against Stony Brook last week. The Dukes want to keep the ball on the ground and entrust their defense to win games. However, the Seawolves did a great job of stopping the run and Weber State will look to emulate that success.
Weber State had one of the better run defenses in the nation, but this was not a unit that was elite like Stony Brook’s front seven. The Wildcats allowed 3.7 yards per carry and did struggle to contain some power running games.
The Dukes didn’t have the most productive ground game, but they have some solid running backs in Trai Sharp and Marcus Marshall. Sharp is a load to bring down, while Marshall came down a level after being one of the top rushers for Georgia Tech last year. They will look to move the chains on this defense.
It’s going to be hard for Weber State to pull off the outright upset, but I think the Wildcats are good enough to get the cover. Weber State has a fantastic cornerback in Taron Johnson and will likely put him on an island in order to stop the run. Johnson was the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year and saw a lot more sophisticated passing attacks than James Madison’s, so he should do well by himself.
I expect Andrew Vollert to have a nice game, too. Defenses have had trouble stopping the tight end all year and Weber State uses him in a traditional way that college teams don’t see nowadays. He is Cantwell’s most reliable target and will make a couple big plays.
In the end, James Madison will be too talented and too deep for Weber State. Don’t be surprised if the game is tight in the fourth quarter, but the Dukes will be able to pull through. They have a great home field advantage and Weber State has had some hiccups on the road.
Pick: Weber State +12.5