JMU went 8-3 in 2022, climbing into the FBS Top 25 rankings briefly, and ended the year with a decisive 47-7 win over No. 23-ranked Coastal Carolina.
Though the Dukes lost plenty of standout players, they hope to continue playing at a high level this season.
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Can JMU Win The Sun Belt Conference Championship?
JMU cannot win the Sun Belt Championship this year as it made the transition to the FBS level one year ago.
JMU Football’s Over/Under Win Total
JMU’s win total Over/Under is 8.5, with Under 8.5 at -130 and Over 8.5 at +110.
JMU Football’s Schedule
9/2 vs Bucknell
9/9 at Virginia
9/16 at Troy
9/23 at Utah State
9/30 vs South Alabama
10/14 vs Georgia Southern
10/19 at Marshall
10/28 vs Old Dominion
11/4 at Georgia State
11/11 vs UConn
11/18 vs Appalachian State
11/25 at Coastal Carolina
Bold indicates Sun Belt contests.
Key JMU Football Returners
2022 All-Sun Belt 2nd Team
OL Nick Kidwell
DL James Carpenter
LB Taurus Jones
LB Jailin Walker
Offensive Line Provides JMU’s Offense Stability
Despite all the changes JMU will see on offense in 2023, the Dukes should be strong up front.
JMU’s offensive line helped the Dukes rank fourth in the Sun Belt with 186.7 rushing yards per game while giving up the third-fewest sacks (22) in the league. All-Sun Belt second-team tackle Nick Kidwell returns as well as standouts like Tyler Stephens, Tanner Morris, and Cole Potts. The Dukes also picked up transfer O-lineman Aaron Gunn from Louisville this offseason.
JMU wide receiver Kris Thornton, quarterback Todd Centeio, and running back Percy Agyei-Obese were on the All-Sun Belt first, second, and third teams, respectively. They helped the Dukes rank first in the league in scoring offense (37 points per game) and third in total offense (452.5 yards per game).
But all three of JMU’s statistical leaders from last year are gone.
At quarterback, the Dukes added Arizona transfer Jordan McCloud and Wake Forest transfer Brett Griffis this offseason. But redshirt freshman Alonza Barnett III and redshirt sophomore Billy Atkins, who both threw passes for JMU last year, could see some time behind center in 2023.
At running back, Latrele Palmer is back after ranking second on the team with 398 rushing yards to go with five touchdowns on 101 attempts. JMU also picked up Ty Son Lawton, a transfer from Stony Brook who could also contribute at running back.
JMU lost four of its top five receiving leaders from a year ago. However, wide receiver Reggie Brown was second for the Dukes with 401 yards on 24 receptions while recording four touchdown catches, and he’s back.
In search of other pass catchers, JMU added wide receivers Taji Hudson (East Carolina), Omarion Dollison (USF), Phoenix Sproles (North Dakota State), and Elijah Sarratt (Saint Francis) as well as tight ends Kyi Wright (Pitt) and Taylor Thompson (Charlotte) via the transfer portal.
James Carpenter Among The Leaders On JMU’s Defense
The Dukes were just about as strong on defense as they were on offense last year. But they return many more stars on that side of the ball.
JMU allowed the fewest yards in the Sun Belt (290.2 per game) and the third-fewest points (20.9 per game) in 2022. And the team returns seven of its top 11 tacklers from a season ago.
Defensive lineman Isaac Ukwu, who was first on JMU with 7.5 sacks, transferred to Ole Miss. But the Dukes should still be solid up front.
Defensive lineman James Carpenter is among JMU’s top returners. The all-conference first-teamer was second on the team with 11.5 tackles for loss and third with 52 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Linebackers Taurus Jones (all-conference third team) and Jailin Walker (all-conference honorable mention) also stood out in 2022.
Jones paced the team with 82 total tackles while adding 10.5 tackles for loss, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and one interception. Walker led the Dukes with three interceptions and was second with 63 tackles and five pass breakups to go with three TFLs.
Chauncey Logan, a cornerback who led JMU with 10 pass breakups, also returns. The Dukes also added Trevell Mullen, a former Indiana cornerback, and Immanuel Bush, a former Marshall defensive lineman, to help on the defensive side of the ball.
JMU Football Season Prediction
Though JMU won’t win the Sun Belt title, the team will win more than eight games in 2023.
The Dukes proved a season ago they are capable of competing with anyone in the conference. I anticipate they’ll win most of their league games again this year.
JMU’s first three matchups aren’t necessarily easy, though. The Dukes should open the year with a win against Bucknell, but then they have to play at Virginia and at Troy. While I don’t rule out JMU winning either of those contests, I’m accounting for two losses there.
From then on, I don’t think JMU loses more than once, however. The Dukes should be victorious in road trips to Utah State and Georgia State, and I think they’ll win at home against South Alabama, Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, UConn, and Appalachian State.
The two games that could decide whether JMU goes over 8.5 wins are matchups at Marshall and Coastal Carolina. Those two teams are expected to be among the best in the Sun Belt.
I figure the Dukes will win one and lose one between those two contests. If they do, that would mean a nine-win season and would be another promising year for the start of JMU’s time in the FBS.