Where James Madison falls in Conference Realignment

The James Madison Dukes will hopefully make the jump to FBS soon.
The James Madison Dukes will hopefully make the jump to FBS soon.

College Football has been dominated by a dynasty for the last decade. Then, in January 2017, they were finally dethroned by a new contender. No, we’re not talking about Clemson Alabama. We’re talking about North Dakota state, who has won the FCS championship 8 times since 2010, finally being dethroned by the James Madison Dukes.

But, the Dukes are making headlines once again with conference realignment. First, the SEC snatched Texas and Oklahoma in a stunning news break that took just a week to come to fruition. Then, the Big 12 bounced back by raiding the American Conference for Cincinnati, UCF, Houston and then plucking independent BYU. The ripples keep going – the American has now announced they’ll be taking 6 teams from Conference USA, and it appears more movements are to come with Marshall and potentially Southern Miss looking to join the Sun Belt.

FCS James Madison squares up against FBS NC State
FCS James Madison squares up against FBS NC State.

James Madison has frequently had their name thrown into these conference realignment conversations. But, it takes a lot to make the jump from FCS to FBS. Only a few schools have done it recently (namely Coastal Carolina and Liberty), but both have obviously managed enormous success since then. However, they have something JMU doesn’t have as much of – a willingness to throw money into their athletic department.

Liberty has their Christian boosters and Coastal has baseball money. While JMU has been quite successful since that 2016 championship, they don’t exactly have the athletic budget to pour into the upgrade. But, would they sustain success if they made it? And where would they even go?

James Madison vs NC State
UNC vs James Madison. This could be a regular FBS matchup.

One things for sure – CUSA is not the answer. If CUSA even manages to survive this raid on their conference, they will have almost no contenders. WKU would probably be the best school remaining. So, why would JMU, who is doing just fine and succeeding in the contentious DC recruitment area, make this suicide jump?

The only valid place for them to go is the Sun Belt. The Sun Belt has quickly positioned themselves as the premiere G5 conference, or at least on equal footing with the American. Louisiana has been great as of late. Coastal is putting up massively winning records in back to back years and getting a lot of attention. Troy has had recent success, and will likely bring it back soon. If Southern Miss gets added, who knows how soon they could return to glory?

But, James Madison has a lot of advantages over these sunbelt teams. They’re arguably in the third best recruiting area in the country. They have a history of success, and a very meaningful trophy to show for it. They have a decently active alumni base who would get on board fast. And they’re stadium – it’s one of the most beautiful stadiums in CFB (though we did not include it on our FBS list).

So, what happens next for the James Madison Dukes? Do they stay in FCS? Do they make the jump? We expect we’ll be seeing them in the “Fun Belt” soon, but CFB is messy – don’t hold your breath.

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FCS Kickoff Game Preview: Austin Peay vs Central Arkansas

Austin Peay, Central Arkansas to play in 2020 FCS Kickoff

By @Sidelines_BYU

MATCHUP: Austin Peay vs Central Arkansas

WHERE: Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, AL

FIELD SURFACE: UBU Speed S5 Synthetic Turf

WHEN: Saturday, August 29th

TIME: 9:00pm EST

TV: ESPN (Matt Barrie and Mike Golic, Jr in Bristol, CT, Lauren Sisler on site)

STREAMING: ESPN App

Austin Peay Radio: Governors Sports Network (Brian Rives and Van Stokes)

Central Arkansas Radio: UCA Radio Network (Justin Acri, Chris Kane, RJ Hawk)

WEATHER: Cloudy with a chance of a stray shower or thunderstorm. Low 76. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 miles per hour. Chance of rain 20%

ODDS

Central Arkansas: -4.5 -200 ML

Austin Peay: +4.5 +157 ML

Over/Under: 44.5

ALL TIME RECORD: 2-0 (both meetings were won by Central Arkansas)

LAST MEETING: 9/17/19 (Central Arkansas won 24-16)

WHAT TO KNOW:

Austin Peay: History will be on the line, as a victory will give the Gov’s their 300th win in program history. They enter the game ranked 13th (STATS FCS). In addition, this will be the first game for interim head coach Marquase Lovings Howard, who was named interim coach on July 7th. He was the DL coach for team last season. Austin Peay returns 14 starters from last year. In addition, this will be the first neutral site game for the Gov’s since 1952!

Central Arkansas: UCA is just 7-7 in season openers since moving up to D1, but 2-0 all time against Austin Peay.  The Bears are also ranked 11th in the STATS FCS rankings. UCA returns 17 starters from last season.

NICK’S FORECAST: Originally this game was going to be played in Conway, Arkansas, but the game was moved to Montgomery. With not every FCS conference planning on playing football in the spring, this is a great opportunity to see two top FCS teams in the lone Week 0 game that will hopefully draw some good ratings.

Austin Peay should be the stronger team on the field, and I do think this will be a close, low scoring game, but I feel Central Arkansas has enough to pull it off at the end. They are my pick to win the first college football game of the 2020 season!

NICK’S PICK: Central Arkansas

NICK’S BEST BET: Under 44

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