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STAFF PICKS: West Virginia vs. the James Madison Dukes

We couldn’t round out our pre-game content without giving you our staff predictions.

Wales Daily Life 2019 Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Every week, the Smoking Musket staff will test out our sure to be less-than-stellar gambling skills, as we make picks in four categories: straight-up, against the spread, over/under, and a special prop bet to be determined each week. We will each start with $500 in Musket Money™, and each bet will be worth $100.

In addition to the degenerate gambling, we’ll be giving our straight up, detailed predictions as to how we think that week’s game will go. So, without further ado...


Jordan Pinto

I think we try to start fast. JMU will be expecting run, but I think we take a couple of early deep shots downfield - if we hit them it’ll be a big time confidence boost for team + Austin, plus it’ll put JMU in a situation they’re not familiar with in playing behind.

In the second half, I think our size and depth take over as we finally turn to the run. They’re a good team, but they’re not very big or deep, and as long as we don’t allow any special teams or defensive TDs I think we cruise.

West Virginia 38 - James Madison 24


We maybe should have bought out JMU for Neal’s first game. Just a thought.

West Virginia 34 - James Madison 28


In the first year of HC Neal Brown, I think this game will be closer than many people are expecting. West Virginia replaces so many pieces and has so many unknowns that predicting a blowout against a team capable of winning the FCS national championship just doesn’t seem like a smart bet. I think Austin Kendall will be effective enough and Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway will help control the Dukes.

West Virginia 24 - James Madison 20

Tyler Brewster

I think both offenses struggle in the 1st half, but have big 2nd halves. WVU’s running game controls the tempo and our defense comes up with a few big stops to give Neal Brown his first win as the Mountaineer head coach.

West Virginia 31 - James Madison 17

John Radcliff

As much as JMU has been built up, I don’t see WVU losing this game. I think it will be ugly and frustrating. But this is one we should and quite honestly need to win.

West Virginia 24 - James Madison 20

Michael Miller

I’d be lying if I said I had any idea what to expect out of this team tomorrow. Do we lean heavily on the run and ease Austin Kendall into his role as QB1, or do we throw him straight into the fire and air it out early and often? How will the defense actually look? 4-3? 3-3-5? 4-2-5? 4-1-6? Does it really matter?

This is going to be a game of feeling things out, but I think we do enough to put a couple touchdowns on the board and hold off whatever Curt Cignetti throws at us.

West Virginia 28 - James Madison 17


I think this game will play out a lot like that Youngstown State game in 2016. Both teams will be breaking in a new head coach, but JMU has more continuity coming into this game. A quick start for the Dukes, coupled with a sloppy start by the Mountaineers will leave us queasy in the first half. Eventually, talent wins out and WVU wins and covers.

West Virginia 31 - James Madison 21

Matt Kirchner

I’ve gone back and forth with this for weeks, and I’ve finally settled on West Virginia winning a game where absolutely nothing is pleasant. The backs take over late when the FBS vs FCS depth kicks in to get a win to start the Neal Brown era.

West Virginia 30 - James Madison 24

Robert Hurst

Zero. Have no expectations and just know that Head Coach Neal Brown will probably pay off in the long run.

West Virginia 24 - James Madison 21

Nick Shoemaker

I think the offense will step up and be ready to play in the season opener. As a result, I think this game will go surprisingly well for WVU and Neal Brown’s debut will be a fun game for Mountaineer fans.

West Virginia 48 - James Madison 17