JMU Football Three Notch’d Game Preview: Dukes Seek 6-0 Start

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

Another week, another meaningful game against a Sun Belt East opponent. JMU football hosts Georgia Southern this Saturday, with the game kicking off at noon. 

The game will offer both sides national exposure, with it being televised on ESPN2. It’s a big game, and it’ll take a sound effort on both sides of the ball for JMU to leave with a win.

Saturday’s weather

Not great! Saturday’s forecast calls for rain. While winds aren’t expected to be gusty and temperatures are expected to be in the mid 60s, the rain will certainly put a damper on the game for fans.

The forecast has fluctuated in recent days, so there is a possibility the heavier rain holds off until after the game ends. At the very least, fans should expect an overcast day with cooler temperatures than previous weeks. 

On the plus side for JMU fans, the rainy weather could negatively impact Georgia Southern’s pass-heavy offensive attack.

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

How to watch

This game will air on ESPN2, a big-time network designation for a top-tier Sun Belt game. 

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.

Getting to know Georgia Southern

Record: 4-1, 1-0 SBC

Head coach: Clay Helton, 10-8 at Georgia Southern and 56-32 as a head coach. The former USC head coach has elite Power Five head coaching experience, and he comes from a family of coaches. I like Helton’s coaching acumen, and he’s quickly led Georgia Southern from a triple-option attack to a dynamic passing offense. 

I wouldn’t be stunned if Helton receives another Power Five opportunity in the next 3-5 seasons. 

Key contributors: Davis Brin leads the team at quarterback, and the Tulsa transfer has no issue throwing the ball 50+ times per game. Wide receivers Khaleb Hood and Derwin Burgess Jr. headline the team’s loaded group of pass catches. They each have three touchdowns and more than 350 receiving yards through five games. They’re mismatches against JMU’s cornerbacks. 

Jalen White and OJ Arnold are dynamic running backs, when given opportunities. The offensive line does well to protect Brin for the most part, and the group will test JMU’s elite defensive front. 

Defensively, linebacker Marques Watson-Trent is a tackling machine (49 through five games). Seven different Eagles have recorded interceptions this fall, and defensive lineman Isaac Walker has done well to create turnovers and deflections.

Georgia Southern’s roster is one of the best in the conference. It’s just a good football team, and the gradual defensive improvement from last season makes the Eagles a legitimate Sun Belt East title contender.

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What to expect

I’d anticipate a close battle. Georgia Southern has four wins this season, and all four victories have come by 10 or more points. The Eagles are really, really good.  

The Eagles can score with the best of them, possessing one of the most dangerous offenses in the Sun Belt. Georgia Southern’s pass-heavy scheme led to nearly 600 passing yards against JMU’s secondary last fall, and the Dukes have shown issues in the secondary again this season. Georgia Southern is the Sun Belt’s most prolific passing offense, in terms of yards per game. While the efficiency stats are a tad lower, they’re still dynamic offensively. 

Fortunately for JMU, the Dukes are playing at home. They’ll have home-field advantage this time around, and they put up 675 yards of offense against Georgia Southern last season. While the Eagles have improved defensively since last season, they still have flaws on that side of the ball. 

JMU’s secondary will give up some plays this weekend, but if JMU can score 30+ points, it’s a winnable game.

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