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The James Madison Dukes (11-1) will take on the Air Force Falcons (8-4) in another installment of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday.
JMU was not supposed to participate in a bowl game because it is still transitioning from FCS to FBS, but the lack of bowl-eligible teams resulted in the Dukes receiving an invite. Air Force, meanwhile, won eight straight games to open the season but lost its last four.
Here, we will go over the betting odds and share our favorite picks for James Madison vs. Air Force in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.
|Over 41.5 (-102)
|Under 41.5 (-120)
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The JMU team that will take the field on Saturday is not even remotely similar to the one that enjoyed such a successful regular-season campaign. Head coach Curt Cignetti left to take the head coaching job at Indiana, and he took seven assistants, including both coordinators, with him.
Offensive line coach Damian Wroblewski will wear the headset this weekend before Holy Cross hire Bob Chesney takes over next season.
A slew of impact players, totaling nine starters and including QB and Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Jordan McCloud, are also in the transfer portal. However, only one has found a new home, and the majority of the unclaimed players are still expected to play on Saturday.
The Dukes scored an average of 35.2 points and gave up an average of 18.5 points per game. They’re a modest running team but excel at throwing the ball, largely thanks to McCloud (283.3 yards per game, 40 total touchdowns, nine interceptions).
McCloud registered the only six-touchdown game of his collegiate career in his last outing against Coastal Carolina, a lopsided game that ended 56-14 in favor of the Dukes.
JMU is excellent at stopping the run. They allowed just 2.1 yards per carry and constantly forced their opponents into third-and-longs, which helped them allow conversions on just 38.7% of third-down attempts.
On the other side, Air Force isn’t overly concerned with anything apart from running the ball. They dialed up runs on 86.8% of plays and only threw 100 passes the entire season.
QB Zac Larrier is expected to return from a knee injury after he was injured early against Hawaii, the team’s second loss of the season. The senior threw six touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for 579 yards (4.4 YPC) and five TDs.
The Falcons’ leading rusher is Emmanuel Michel, who is helping to keep the fullback position alive and well. He picked up 747 yards and nine TDs (also a team-high), and five players ran for at least 430 yards this season.
Air Force allowed the sixth-fewest yards and 14th-fewest points to opponents. A major part of that was that they also ranked 10th in average time of possession and simply kept the ball out of their opponents’ hands.
While the Falcons’ defense isn’t outstanding at getting after the quarterback or defending deep down the field, they only allowed third-down conversions on 35.3% of attempts (33rd).
The Dukes are the better team, assuming their portal guys do return to action over the weekend. McCloud will be the best player on the field bar none and will provide an element of explosiveness that Air Force won’t be able to match with their run-first and run-often approach.
While we like JMU to win, it’s obvious that there are going to be some drawbacks from losing their coach and so many assistants—the staff was so barren that the acting coach had to hire five temporary assistants just to prepare for the game. That should disrupt their flow in a couple of key situations, which should keep the game low-scoring and played around Air Force’s preferred tempo.
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Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
When: Saturday, Dec. 23 @ 2:30/3:30 p.m. CT/ET
Grant is a sports and sports betting journalist who prides himself on delivering breaking news and insightful analyses of the industry. Grant graduated from Virginia Tech in 2021 and is feverishly pursuing his ambitions in the sports betting field.
In his free time, Grant can be found passionately watching sports, doing a workout, or searching for adventure with his friends.More info on Grant Mitchell
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