In 2022, JMU football started its season 5-0. The Dukes’ sixth game came against Georgia Southern, and they lost 45-38 to the pass-happy Eagles.
In 2023, JMU is once again 5-0. And once again, the Dukes’ sixth opponent is Georgia Southern. Can the Dukes avoid the upset loss this time around?
If the Dukes are to avoid their first Sun Belt loss of the season, they’ll need to step it up in the secondary. Georgia Southern threw for 578 yards in its win over JMU last season, abandoning the running game against a stout run defense and instead picking on JMU’s weakness.
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Eagles’ offense electric
Georgia Southern leads the Sun Belt in passing yards per game with 337 per contest, and the Eagles complete 70% of their passes. The Eagles lean almost entirely on the passing attack, which actually sets up well against a JMU team that leads the Sun Belt in rushing yards allowed per game but is last in passing yards allowed per game.
The Dukes often give up long strikes, which should excite Georgia Southern. JMU has allowed five passing plays of at least 60 yards, the second-worst mark in all of college football. Georgia Southern averages 13 passing plays of 10 or more yards per game, one of the best marks in the country.
JMU’s clear defensive strength is run defense, which makes the matchup with Georgia Southern so concerning. The Eagles likely won’t even attempt to establish a running attack Saturday.
Can the Dukes adjust to a team content to throw the ball 50+ times? If not, Georgia Southern could cement itself as a Sun Belt East contender with a tremendous road win.
Quarterback Davis Brin will need to avoid turnovers for the Eagles. His five interceptions cost the team against Wisconsin earlier this season. When Brin protects the football, he’s dangerous in Georgia Southern’s scheme. Khaleb Hood headlines the team’s elite receiving threats.
Will home-field advantage flip the result?
Last year’s game took place in Statesboro. This year’s contest will be in Harrisonburg, as the Dukes play host to the Eagles.
JMU is 7-1 at home since moving to the FBS, with its only loss a 26-12 defeat to Marshall that came without its starting quarterback. The Dukes have been fantastic at home under Curt Cignetti, only losing twice since he took over the program in 2019.
Will home-field advantage help the Dukes against a Georgia Southern team that matches up well with them? Both teams enjoyed a bye week last week, giving them each ample time to create a strong gameplan for Saturday.
College football betting odds list JMU as about a field-goal favorite. It’s expected to be competitive again on Saturday, and the Dukes will need a strong showing to avoid the third home loss of the Cignetti era.
Predicting the outcome of Saturday’s game is a challenge, but it feels safe to assume it’ll be one of the Sun Belt’s most intriguing games of the week.