The powers-that-be: JMU, Liberty are the clear class of the Commonwealth in 2022
Five weeks into the 2022 college football season, it’s obvious that the best team in Virginia isn’t either of the Commonwealth’s ACC teams.
In fact, one of them, right now Virginia Tech, is at the bottom of the list of the five teams in FBS, though UVA, which can’t seem to beat their rivals from Blacksburg more than once every 20 years, could replace them in the basement come Thanksgiving weekend.
The best team right now is either James Madison (4-0, ESPN FPI: 63) or Liberty (4-1, ESPN FPI: 64).
JMU has a win over Appalachian State, a 32-28 road win in a game that the Dukes trailed at one point 28-3.
Liberty’s signature game is actually a loss – 37-36 at Wake Forest, which is now ranked 15th, and has only lost to #5 Clemson, that one in double-OT.
Liberty has the better chance of the two to improve its standing, with games against now-#16 BYU (Oct. 22, at home), Arkansas (Nov. 5, at Arkansas) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 19, another one at home).
JMU has one non-conference game of note, but that game, at Louisville (2-3, ESPN FPI: 50), is a bit diminished now that the Cardinals have limped to a 2-3 start, and may have to go without QB Malik Cunningham, injured in the 34-33 loss to Boston College on Saturday.
I’d put UVA (2-3, ESPN FPI: 78) in the third spot in the Commonwealth right now, but the ‘Hoos are a distant third behind whoever is better between JMU and Liberty.
(I’m still leaving that one undetermined for now.)
FPI gives a slight nod to Virginia Tech (2-3, ESPN FPI: 98) over ODU (2-3, ESPN FPI: 106), but I’m going with the Monarchs in the fourth spot by virtue of their 20-17 win over the Hokies in Week 1.
ODU, you may remember, almost won at UVA, which needed a last-second field goal to escape with a 16-14 win in their Week 3 matchup.
Those three are clearly roughly equivalent.
Who woulda guessed that back a few weeks ago, that UVA and Tech would be neck-and-neck with a team picked to finish in last place in the Sun Belt?
There are still some big games between the Commonwealth teams on the schedule the next few weeks.
I mentioned the Virginia Tech at Liberty game in November, and of course there’s the UVA-Tech game for the Commonwealth Cup, this year in Blacksburg, after Thanksgiving.
JMU and ODU also hook up, on Nov. 12 in Norfolk.
This means there’s chance for movement back and forth, but I think we’ve already seen enough to come to some conclusions.
The Commonwealth Clash will be contested in Blacksburg, but the class of the Commonwealth is in Harrisonburg and Lynchburg.