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Keeler: Duke, WVU sure to intrigue

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Tommy Keeler

By Tommy Keeler - tkeeler@nvdaily.com

This weekend's game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., featuring West Virginia University and James Madison University should be a great one for our entire area.

The final score of the game, and I personally don't think it will be close, shouldn't matter. Both schools have a big fan base in our region. I'm not sure why there's so many WVU fans in the area, but it seems like everywhere I go there's a few of them here and there. Don't get me wrong, being a WVU fan isn't a bad thing, especially with this year's team.

The Mountaineers are loaded with talent. Quarterback Geno Smith is already considered an early Heisman Trophy candidate, and he has talented receivers such as Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to throw the ball to. The Mountaineers put up 70 points in last year's Orange Bowl against Clemson. In their season opener, they put up 69 on Marshall.

Just to see WVU's high-powered offense would be worth the price of admission to Saturday's game. However, JMU is no slouch and they have won big-time games before.

It was just two years ago that the Dukes shocked Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Could the Dukes have another upset in them? Not likely, but if they do, fans at the game can say they were there.

A win for the Dukes will be a tall task, and JMU may be without starting tailback Dae'Quan Scott, due to a left ankle injury.

Obviously, with JMU being so close we have a huge fan base in our area, and many locals went to school there. That's part of the reason I find this matchup intriguing from a fan standpoint. I think both have die-hard fan bases, and if nothing else the game should be good for the community.

There have been other games through the years that have been held at FedEx Field, home of course to the Washington Redskins, but it's usually been Virginia Tech-Boise State and matchups like that. As soon as they announced this game would be happening, I thought it was a great idea, at least for this area. How many people really want to see Boise State play?

On Sept. 29, Virginia Tech plays Cincinnati at FedEx Field. That should be a closer game, but I don't think it will have the same spark in this area that this weekend's game has.
JMU coach Mickey Matthews said he's a little worried about the hype for his team's game against the Mountaineers.

"I'm worried about the JMU Nation," Matthews said. "You'd think this was Super Bowl V or something that we're playing. It's a good game and we're going to play as hard as we can. When I came to work in July, they had a billboard around saying how many days it was until the JMU-WVU game. I don't know what that meant."

Matthews said he does think it will be a good game from a fan's perspective.

"On the other side of the coin, it's a good opportunity for [our fans] to go up there," Matthews said. "It will be a lot of fun to go up there. We're looking forward to it."

Another interesting dynamic is the Football Bowl Subdivision team (WVU) vs. the Football Championship Subdivision team (JMU). A loss to JMU would be devastating for West Virginia. There's no question that the Mountaineers have a lot more to lose than the Dukes. No FBS team wants to be remembered as the one that lost to an FCS school.

Making things even more interesting is the fact that both teams are ranked in the top 10. West Virginia is ranked No. 8 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 9 in the AP poll. The Dukes are currently ranked No. 4 in The Sports Network FCS poll, and No. 5 in the FCS coaches poll. It's not often you get to see two teams at the top of their divisions face off against each other. Playing the game at FedEx Field just makes it even more special.

There have also been a lot of JMU fans and alumni who have expressed interest in the Dukes moving up to the FBS in the future. This will give fans and the entire JMU administration a little taste of what it's like. It also gives the JMU fans a chance to show how much support they give to their team.

There's also four local players on JMU's squad, and for them it will be a chance to play on the same field as the Redskins, something not many get to do.

Hopefully, local fans will flock to the game. It may not be close, but the reality is you never know until the game is played. No matter what, it's a matchup that's rare, and for many of the players it will be something special that they can remember forever.

-- Assistant sports editor Tommy Keeler Jr. can be reached at tkeeler@nvdaily.com.

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