JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Dukes Host South Alabama

By Bennett Conlin

JMU beat UVA, Troy, and Utah State the last three weeks. The Dukes reward? A home battle against South Alabama, a team projected by some to win the Sun Belt in 2023.

How’s that for a start to the season?

JMU won’t have an easy time Saturday, as the Jaguars are one of the most well-rounded teams in the Sun Belt. On the plus side for the Dukes, Saturday’s home matchup is sold out. They should have a notable home-field advantage.

The game kicks off at noon ET.

Saturday’s weather

The high temperature Saturday is 74 degrees, and the sun might come out in the afternoon. While there could be a morning shower and will likely be some cloud cover throughout the day, this isn’t bad weather by any means.

The temperature should be comfortable, especially if the sun comes out at any point during the game. There’s little to no wind expected, as weather is not expected to play a factor in Saturday’s game.

Fans should enjoy watching this home game, as it’s not too hot or too cold. Even Goldilocks approves of Saturday’s forecast.

How to watch

This game will air on ESPNU, as it’s one of the Sun Belt’s best games of the week.

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 WSVAOnline.com and on your phone with the The Varsity Network app.

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

Getting to know South Alabama

Record: 2-2, 0-0 SBC

Head coach: Kane Wommack, 17-12 overall as South Alabama’s head coach. Like Troy’s Jon Sumrall, Wommack is one of the hottest young names in coaching. The former Indiana defensive coordinator has done well to make South Alabama a Sun Belt West threat.

If Wommack puts together another solid season or two, the 36-year-old will soon be offered a Power Five head coaching job.

Key contributors: Carter Bradley is the team’s quarterback, and he’s arguably the best signal caller in the SBC West. La’Damian Webb is a standout running back with six touchdowns through four games. He eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards last season.

Caullin Lacy is one of six wide receivers at the FBS level with multiple receptions of at least 70 yards. He leads the team with 26 catches for 425 yards and five touchdowns. He might be the most dangerous wide receiver in the Sun Belt.

Defensively, safeties Jaden Voisin and Yam Banks are standouts worth keeping an eye on, especially if JMU opts to lean on its passing attack. Banks has one of the defense’s two interceptions so far this season.

What to expect

I expect a competitive game between two of the best teams in the Sun Belt. JMU holds home-field advantage, but the Jaguars are an impressive 6-2 on the road since the start of last season.

Like JMU’s previous three games, this game could be decided in the final possessions of the fourth quarter.

As far as how each team will attack the other, I’d anticipate South Alabama will lean on Bradley, Lacy, and the passing game to test JMU’s secondary. The Dukes have allowed 10 passing plays of at least 30 yards this season. For comparison, Marshall has only allowed one.

The Dukes will need improved secondary play to slow down South Alabama’s balanced and capable offensive unit.

On the other side of the ball, South Alabama has (somewhat surprisingly) looked like one of the worst passing defenses nationally. Tulane and Central Michigan, the two teams to beat South Alabama, combined for four passing touchdowns of 40+ yards against the Jaguars. Even Southeastern Louisiana threw for over 300 yards against the Jaguars in Week 2.

I’d anticipate JMU leaning on Jordan McCloud and its passing attack to test South Alabama’s defense through the air. McCloud threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more in JMU’s 45-38 win over Utah State.

The team with the more efficient quarterback Saturday has a good chance to win.

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