Keys to JMU Football’s Game Against Old Dominion

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

JMU takes its new AP Top 25 ranking into a game for the first time this weekend, and it’s a major game for JMU faithful. The Dukes host in-state rival Old Dominion on Saturday, with the game airing on ESPNU and kicking off at 8 p.m. ET. 

When the two teams take the field, JMU will have a few major advantages – there’s a reason the Dukes are nearly three-touchdown favorites – including its defensive line against ODU’s offensive line. 

Let’s break down keys to the game and matchups JMU can exploit. 

Pressure the quarterback

Old Dominion has allowed 38 sacks in seven games, allowing an average of 5.43 sacks per game. That’s the worst mark in college football. 

JMU’s defense averages an FBS-best 4.86 sacks per game. 

That’s an obvious matchup for the Dukes to exploit. Old Dominion’s offense has struggled to keep its quarterback off the turf, while the Dukes create more issues in the backfield than really any other team in college football. 

Can Jalen Green, Mikail Kamara, Jamree Kromah, and James Carpenter pressure Old Dominion’s Grant Wilson? If they can, the Dukes have a tremendous chance of winning.

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

Lean on the rowdy atmosphere 

It’s JMU’s Homecoming, a night game, and Halloween weekend. This atmosphere should be phenomenally rowdy, especially in the first half. 

Old Dominion is just 1-2 on the road this season, with the one win a narrow victory over Southern Miss – arguably the conference’s worst teams. ODU went just 1-5 away from home last season. 

JMU, on the other hand, is 8-1 at home since moving to the FBS. The lone loss came on Homecoming, when a poor offensive showing against Marshall took the crowd out of the game. A rowdy crowd could give JMU the emotional lift needed to pull away early this year. 

The Dukes are the better football team, and if Saturday night’s atmosphere creates a major home-field advantage, it’s hard to see Old Dominion winning. 

Healthy McCloud

Jordan McCloud dealt with a leg injury against Marshall, but played through it. If McCloud looks like his healthy self, the Dukes’ passing attack has a chance for a special Saturday. 

Old Dominion’s rush defense is quite respectable, but the Monarchs rank 130th nationally in EPA (expected points added) per play against the pass. They’re 122nd in passing defensive success rate. Essentially, they’re bad at stopping the pass! 

JMU’s rushing offense has lacked consistency this season, but with McCloud at quarterback, the passing attack seems to improve weekly. Look for Reggie Brown, Elijah Sarratt, and Phoenix Sproles to have lots of space this weekend, taking advantage of a lackluster Old Dominion secondary. 

McCloud should carry the Dukes’ offense Saturday, and he’s poised for a massive performance.

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