JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Dukes Face Troy

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU football dubbed itself the “Kings of the East” last season, but NCAA transition rules kept the Dukes out of the Sun Belt title game. The Dukes missed out on a meeting with Troy, which walloped Coastal Carolina in the league championship.

Early in 2023, JMU gets a shot against the Trojans.

JMU faces Troy at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, as the Dukes work through a brutal three-game road trip. JMU survived UVA last weekend, and the Dukes will need strong play to go 1-1 or 2-0 against Troy and Utah State in the coming weeks.

Saturday’s game will be a massive challenge, but it should be entertaining for fans to see how the Dukes stack up against a top-tier team from the SBC West.

Saturday’s Weather

The temperature should be fine Saturday, with temperatures expected to reach 85 degrees during the day. With a later kickoff, the temperatures could drop into the upper 70s or low 80s during the game.

There’s a chance of a rain yet again — a lightning delay benefited the Dukes against UVA — but overall the forecast looks decent and rain showers might end by the time kickoff rolls around. It shouldn’t be too windy, as winds are forecasted to be “light and variable,” according to The Weather Channel.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support this year.

How to Watch

The game will air on the NFL Network.

If you want to listen to the radio broadcast and are in Harrisonburg, tune in to WSVA 550 AM or 92.1 FM. You can stream the radio broadcast online at and on your phone with the The Varsity Network app.

Getting to know Troy

Record: 1-1, 0-0 SBC

Troy head coach: Jon Sumrall, he’s 13-3 as Troy’s head coach. The second-year head coach is just 41-years-old and did great work with Kentucky’s defense before earning the Troy head coaching gig. He’s a top candidate among Group of Five coaches to one day earn a Power Five job.

Expected contributors: Troy’s offense leans on running back Kimani Vidal, who has more than 300 rushing yards through two games this season. Vidal eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards last season.

Quarterback Gunnar Watson doesn’t draw a ton of Sun Belt headlines, but he’s played a lot of football for Troy dating back to 2018. He’s thrown for more than 7,000 yards in his career, giving the Trojans an experienced quarterback leading the offense. He’s decent.

Troy’s defensive line is stellar, with TJ Jackson and Richard Jibunor both earning preseason All-Sun Belt First Team honors. Jackson hasn’t played yet this season due to suspension, but JMU’s Curt Cignetti told the media he anticipates Jackson suiting up.

Defensive back Reddy Steward is a game-changing player in the secondary, and he intercepted a pass against Kansas State last week.

What to expect 

A slugfest between two of the best teams in the Sun Belt.

Troy won 12 games last season in Jon Sumrall’s first season as the Trojans’ head coach. As a program, Troy has four, 10-win seasons since 2016.

JMU went 8-3 in its first FBS season, and it started 2023 with a marquee win over UVA. JMU also has four seasons of double-digit wins since 2016.

Each side loves to run the football, leaning on dominant trench play to defeat conference peers. The two teams hold similar identities, and they play to their identities well.

Both programs expect to win consistently, and they were preseason division favorites in the Sun Belt. I’d expect a highly competitive game Saturday that could be decided in the fourth quarter.

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