JMU Football Three Notch’d Preview: Dukes Battle In-State Rival ODU

Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications

By Bennett Conlin

It’s rivalry week for JMU football, with the Dukes (7-0, 4-0 SBC) hosting Old Dominion (4-3, 3-1 SBC) on Saturday night. The showdown between SBC rivals will air on national TV, and the Dukes are a big betting favorite. 

With a win, JMU keeps its undefeated season alive and moves one step closer to finishing atop the Sun Belt East for the second consecutive season. The Dukes won’t be competing in the Sun Belt title game because they’re still a transitioning team with no potential to make a New Year’s Six bowl game, but finishing atop the East for a second consecutive season would still be highly meaningful. 

Here’s our quick and dirty weekly game preview for this week’s Homecoming game. 

Saturday’s weather

Truly perfect. Saturday’s high is 82 degrees, with an overnight low of 56. It’s supposed to be sunny all day with minimal wind. 

It’s a fantastic day to tailgate and attend a night game. Fans lucked out with this late October forecast, and I anticipate a packed stadium at kickoff. 

Editor’s note: Thanks to Three Notch’d Brewing for their advertising support this season. Check out our Instagram page to learn more about our Homecoming Three Notch’d Giveaway!

How to watch

The game will air on ESPNU, as the Dukes have yet another national TV 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 and on your phone with the The Varsity Network app.

Getting to know Old Dominion

Record: 4-3, 3-1 SBC

Head coach: Ricky Rahne, the former Penn State offensive coordinator is 13-19 as ODU’s head coach, but he inherited a team in disarray and the Monarchs skipped the 2020 COVID season. He’s done well to build them into a competent Sun Belt East team. Like several other Sun Belt East coaches, Rahne has the ability to become a Power Five head coach in the near future. 

Key contributors: Grant Wilson is a competent, yet unspectacular quarterback. Running back Kadarius Calloway has proven to have game-changing ability in recent weeks, going for 200+ yards in a close loss to Marshall. He’ll test JMU’s stout run defense. ODU spreads the ball to multiple receivers, as no player has more than 16 catches. 

Defensively, Jason Henderson is the name to watch. The linebacker is one of the most enjoyable players in the conference to watch, as he eats up tackles. He’s up to 108 (!!!) and 13 tackles for loss. He’s a serious threat to Jalen Green’s Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year candidacy. 

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What to expect

I adore this matchup for JMU, for reasons explained in our weekly keys to the game article

JMU rushes the passer exceptionally well, while ODU gives up far too many sacks (more than 5 per game). The Monarchs’ offense is inconsistent, and JMU’s defense should generate a bunch of negative plays. 

On the other side of the ball, ODU struggles to stop the pass. The Dukes and quarterback Jordan McCloud (second in the Sun Belt in passing efficiency) should have a major advantage in the passing game. 

While the Monarchs have done well to hang in games this season, JMU losing this game would be a major disappointment. Winning by double digits is borderline expected, given the betting spread. A 3+ touchdown win shouldn’t be ruled out.

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