JMU football might be the best Group of Five team. After all, the Dukes appear at No. 1 in the latest HERO Sports Group of Five Top 25.
The Dukes might also be the luckiest G5 team. I’m not suggesting the Dukes are benefitting from dozens of lucky bounces or suggesting they have flukey wins – the Dukes are good – but they’re also 5-0 in one-possession games. That takes talent and impressive late-game execution to hold onto victories. It also takes a bit of good fortune.
Can the Dukes keep the good fortunes rolling Saturday at Georgia State?
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Dukes A Short Favorite
College football betting odds list JMU as a 5.5-point favorite, suggesting another one-possession game could be in order. The Dukes won last season’s meeting with the Panthers 42-40 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
This year’s Georgia State team is much improved from the 2022 group that nearly upset the Dukes. Behind quarterback Darren Grainger and running back Marcus Carroll, the Panthers are 6-2. They have notable wins over Coastal Carolina and Louisiana.
Interestingly, Georgia State has also found good fortune in close games. The Panthers are a perfect 3-0 in one-possession contests. If Saturday’s game comes down to the fourth quarter, both sides will feel confident they can pull it out.
The matchup also puts strength vs. strength, with Grainger and Carroll forming one of the best running backfields in the Sun Belt. Carroll leads the Sun Belt in rushing yards per game with just over 130 per contest, and he’s racked up 12 rushing scores this season.
JMU, on the other hand, allows just 1.6 yards per carry. The Dukes are one of the nation’s most disruptive defenses, generating tackles for loss and sacks at a high clip.
It’s understandable that the betting spread for the game isn’t substantially favoring the Dukes, as the Panthers will test their run defense and they have home-field advantage. Saturday’s game should be one of the more intriguing Sun Belt East games of the season.
Clinching The East?
JMU won’t play in the Sun Belt Championship this season as the Dukes complete their two-year FBS transition period. Still, finishing first in the Sun Belt East matters to the program. JMU dubbed itself the “Kings of the East” last year after finishing first in the division.
The Dukes can technically clinch a first-place finish in the Sun Belt East on Saturday. If JMU, Texas State, Old Dominion, and Marshall win this weekend, the Dukes are guaranteed to finish atop the division for a second consecutive season.
As for Georgia State, the Panthers might need a win to keep any hopes alive of representing the Sun Belt East in the league title game. Down one game in the loss column to Georgia Southern, the Panthers will need help from the Eagles the rest of the way given Georgia Southern’s head-to-head win over Georgia State. The Panthers can’t afford a third conference loss.
Saturday’s game is a major opportunity for each side, with JMU able to secure its place as a dominant Sun Belt team with a win. A Georgia State win keeps the Panthers alive in the Sun Belt East race.