For the first time ever, the No. 9 ranked West Virginia University football team is headed to FedEx Field to play the FCS No. 4 ranked James Madison University Dukes in a game between two top 10 teams in their respective divisions.
This will be the second time both of these schools have played each other. The first meeting was back in 2004 at Mountaineer Field where WVU defeated JMU, 45-10. The Dukes went on to win the FCS National Championship that season.
This year, both programs have shown to have high powered offenses. In the opening game against Marshall, the Mountaineers put 69 points up on Marshall and had 655 yards of total offense. While many expected a lot of yards and points for West Virginia, I think the balance surprised many. They put up 331 yards on the ground while throwing for 324. WVU hopes to continue this trend Saturday.
"That's the biggest thing we wanted to work on in the spring and going into the fall was running the football," guard Jeff Braun said. "Everyone says that in this offense, we like to air in out but we like to run the ball."
For James Madison, they have only given up a total of 10 points through two games this year. However, you cannot ignore the fact that these games were against Saint Francis (PA) and Alcorn State. JMU only allowed 155 yards of total offense to Saint Francis and 250 total yards to Alcorn State.
The key to watch on this side of the ball for West Virginia is whether or not they can keep the balance they had against Marshall. If Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie have similar games rushing to what they had two weeks ago, then expect Geno Smith to have another big game through the air also.
Offensively for the Dukes, quarterback Justin Thorpe has shown he is a weapon with his legs. He has ran for 177 yards and three scores, averaging an impressive 8.9 yards per carry. His passing numbers don't jump out of the screen at you, but he has completed 64.4% of his passes and has thrown three touchdowns with just one interception.
With the way JMU runs their offense, expect many short and immediate passes as well as the Dukes trying to get Thorpe into possible running situations.
According to JMU Head Coach Mickey Matthews, do-it-all running back Dae'Quan Scott is doubtful for this Saturday's game. He suffered an ankle injury against Alcorn State after rushing for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
For WVU, they look to hush some of the critics after giving up 34 points and 545 yards to Marshall. While much of the first team only gave up 10 points in the first half, things got away from the defense as a whole in the second.
"We played like 20 freshmen or first time players last week on defense," Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest said. "It was a great learning experience. I hated the fact that we had an open week and couldn't build on that but the open week helped us. I think they're going to understand the tempo now."
What to watch for on this side of the ball is can the Mountaineers contain Thorpe and force him to throw the football down the field? If they allow him to get into the open field, big plays could result for JMU.
The weather for the game Saturday looks like it has a chance to be perfect. It is currently calling for a high of 79 degrees and sunshine with a 20% chance of rain.
The game will be aired on Root Sports at 4:30 ET Saturday afternoon.