JMU ranked No. 5 in HERO Sports preseason poll
James Madison football will once again open the year as a national championship contender, as it was ranked fifth in the 2020 HERO Sports FCS Preseason Top 25, the organization announced Wednesday.
The Dukes have reached the FCS playoffs in each of the past six seasons, which includes a national championship in 2016 and national runner-up finish in 2017 and 2019.
JMU is coming off a 14-2 season last fall, winning the Colonial Athletic Association championship and earning the No. 2 overall seed for the playoffs. JMU won 14 straight games to reach its fourth title-game appearance in school history.
The Dukes finished 2019 ranking in the top five nationally in 13 statistical categories, which included leading the FCS in total defense (270.2), first-down defense (14.56), completion percentage (.706), blocks (9) and fourth-down conversions (.889).
They also ranked second in third-down conversions (.536), third in scoring defense (15.7), scoring offense (40.0), rushing defense (74.8), third-down defense (.300) and first-down offense (24.81), fourth in pass efficiency (169.44) and fifth in team tackles for loss (8.5).
JMU returns five offensive starters, five defensive starters and five of six specialists from last year’s squad. That includes bringing back four All-Americans in running back Percy Agyei-Obese, offensive lineman Liam Fornadel, safety/punt returner D’Angelo Amos and kicker Ethan Ratke. It also brings back seven of 17 all-conference honorees.
The Dukes were one of five CAA schools to be ranked. Leading the preseason poll was defending national champion North Dakota State. The Bison was followed by No. 2 South Dakota State, No. 3 Northern Iowa and No. 4 Sacramento State.
Later in the summer, STATS and the American Football Coaches Association will unveil the primary media and coaches’ polls.
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#1 North Dakota State
#2 South Dakota State
#3 Northern Iowa
#4 Sacramento State
#5 James Madison
#6 Weber State
#9 Montana State
#10 Central Arkansas
#11 Kennesaw State
#12 Illinois State
#13 Austin Peay
#17 New Hampshire
#18 Eastern Washington
#19 North Carolina A&T
#20 Florida A&M
#21 The Citadel
#22 Southern Illinois
#23 Sam Houston State
Receiving votes: Alcorn State, Chattanooga, Dartmouth, Elon, Nicholls, Portland State, SEMO, UT Martin, Wofford