The Biggest Surprise in College Football??? The James Madison Dukes

James Madison: biggest surprise in college football
from Eric Smithling, at
(Alonza Barnett II is a backup quarterback for the JMU Dukes…Barnett is a freshman, out of Grimsley High School.)

Growing pains are expected out of college football programs making the move to the FBS level. James Madison is bucking historical trends as well as being the one delivering the pain.

James Madison (5-0, 3-0) announced the move to the Sun Belt Conference in Nov. 2021.

From 1979-2021, the Dukes played in the Football Championship Subdivision. They were a powerhouse, making the FCS postseason each season from 2014-2021 and winning the national championship in 2016. The team’s repeated dominance led to them fleeing for greener pastures.

The Dukes entered the Associated Press poll at No. 25 after their fifth game at the Football Bowl Subdivision level. To put that in historical context, let’s take the Oklahoma Sooners as an example. The AP Poll was created in 1936 and it took Oklahoma, a team already well-established in the sport, two seasons before they made their first appearance at No. 14 on Oct. 17, 1938.

James Madison is the 12th school to make the jump to the FBS since 2012. They are the only team to start 5-0 and appear in the AP poll in their first season.

That they made it to this level so fast is a development no one saw coming.

The 11 schools prior to James Madison averaged 4.2 wins in their inaugural year. The Dukes crossed that threshold in five games.

(James Madison over Appalachian State, 32-28.)