Betting Preview: JMU Nearly a Touchdown Favorite Over Utah State

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Blake Pace

Hand up — I couldn’t have been more wrong trying to break down the JMU bout with Troy.

Troy held its own against ranked Kansas State for a decent chunk of the game and seemingly handled Stephen F. Austin through all of its season opener, so I expected the Trojans to bring a balanced offensive attack, and one that would thrive through the air against the Dukes. Seeing that the JMU offense was still very one-dimensional and its secondary had yet to string together a successful outing, it seemed like a Trojan victory was very likely.

The Troy passing game came to play, with Gunnar Watson rifling 332 yards on 25 completions with two touchdowns, but there was no balance at all as the JMU rushing defense held star running back Kimani Vidal to 11 carries for just 27 yards; a ridiculous 2.45 yards per attempt.

The Dukes offense did just enough to get 16 points to the board, and they snuck out of Veterans Memorial Stadium with their third victory of the season.

The Week 2 Recap: Troy -2 (L) & o49.5 (L)

(Overall Record: 1-3)

Like I said, I had the polar opposite read on this game last week. Both teams went a combined 6-for-32 on third down and there was plenty of conservative, scared play calling to go around for both teams. My lack of trust in the JMU offense led me toward the Trojans defending their home turf, but the rightful Sun Belt Champions of 2022 walked out victorious — just a few months behind schedule.

Editor’s note: Thanks to Christopher William Jewelers for their advertising support this season.

The Lines: JMU (-6.5) at Utah State, o/u 52

This spread continues to shoot upward in favor of the Dukes as we speak, opening initially at JMU -4.5 but now creeping toward the Dukes being touchdown favorites this weekend. The total has remained somewhat consistent, but after getting as high as 54.5, it’s beginning to creep down to 52. James Madison is fresh off its first cover of the season with two of their three games hitting the under, meanwhile Utah State has covered in two of three games this season with the over hitting twice.

It is also worth noting that the Dukes have failed to cover both times they’ve been favored this season, a trend they’ll look to buck in Logan, Utah.

The Picks: JMU -6.5 & u52

I refuse to fade the Dukes for a third week in a row.

Utah State’s offense is powered through a balanced ground game with three 100-plus yard rushers in Rahsul Faison, Davon Booth, and Robert Briggs Jr., but what we’ve seen from the JMU defensive front makes me think they’ll hold up just fine against the 43rd-best rushing attack in college football. The Aggies passing game is middle of the road, they don’t excel protecting the quarterback, and they’re terrible at converting third downs. Sounds a lot like the Dukes’ most recent opponent.

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Flipping to the other side of the ball, JMU’s offense has yet to make me feel great this season — but thankfully they’re up against a defense that should make any opposing offense feel great. Utah State’s defense is toward the bottom of college football in terms of rushing yards allowed, third down conversions, sacks and turnovers forced.

While their pass defense is the strength of their unit, JMU will control this game through the trenches and will only open up in the passing game when the defense has to cave in to try and stop the run.

James Madison is far from a perfect team, but it’ll do just fine controlling the time of possession game and protecting the football on offense while stuffing the run and getting to the quarterback on defense.

Give me a low-scoring but somewhat easy win for the Dukes, 26-17.

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