While JMU is ineligible for the Sun Belt Championship game, the Dukes’ regular-season finale holds massive implications for the division title race.
JMU hits the road as a 9-point betting favorite against Coastal Carolina. With an upset win, the Chanticleers will represent the Sun Belt East in the league championship for the second consecutive season and three out of the last four years. With a loss, the Chanticleers need App State to lose to Georgia Southern to earn the spot in the Sun Belt championship.
If Coastal loses and App State wins, the Mountaineers will face Troy in the league title game.
As for JMU, the Dukes would need successful legal action against the NCAA (and a win over Coastal Carolina) to make the conference championship. That’s a longshot path. Still, finishing first in the East standings in consecutive seasons would be a special accomplishment for the program.
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Can The Dukes Bounce Back?
Fresh off a heartbreaking home loss to App State, JMU looks to turn the page against a solid Coastal Carolina team. The Dukes struggled to run the ball against the Mountaineers, tallying fewer than 100 yards on the ground, and star quarterback Jordan McCloud had one of his sloppier games of the year.
Interestingly, Coastal Carolina profiles similarly to App State.
The Chanticleers’ passing offense has been its strength this season, with the team ranking 20th nationally in expected points added per pass play. Defensively, Coastal is in the bottom 30 nationally in rushing success rate.
JMU’s offense revolves around McCloud, with the Dukes’ rushing attack being largely nonexistent this fall. If McCloud makes accurate throws and correct reads, the Dukes’ offense usually hums along. When he’s off, it can come to a screeching halt. He hasn’t been off much this season, but his performance is magnified by the team’s lack of running game.
If JMU is to bounce back Saturday on the road against Coastal Carolina, it’ll take a better effort from McCloud. He completed just 58.7% of his passes against App State, averaging only 6.3 yards per pass attempt. McCloud wasn’t terrible, but he also wasn’t his usual self.
Coastal Carolina was embarrassed by JMU a season ago. The Dukes beat the Chanticleers 47-7 last fall in Virginia to put an exclamation point on an 8-3 season. Grayson McCall didn’t play in that game, and he’s doubtful for this year’s finale as he recovers from a concussion.
While these are different teams – and a different coaching staff for Coastal Carolina – some Chanticleers and their fans likely have revenge on their minds. Coastal Carolina has a chance, with a win, to lock up the division without any asterisk. Even if JMU was to receive a court ruling granting it immediate postseason eligibility, the Dukes still would not qualify for the conference title with a loss Saturday.
Saturday’s game is huge for Coastal Carolina head coach Tim Beck. A win would give the first-time head coach a signature victory, and it would provide a recruiting boost. Recruits in the area would be stoked to join a program coming off wins over App State and JMU.
Like most Sun Belt East games this season, there’s a lot to play for Saturday when JMU visits Coastal Carolina.