Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl – James Madison vs Air Force

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl – James Madison vs Air Force

This December 18, 2023 College Football Bowl Game Famous Toastery Bowl

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
James Madison vs Air Force
Fort Worth, TX
12/23/2023 – 3:30 PM EST

2023 Armed Forces Bowl Betting Odds
James Madison -2.5
Total: 41

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Opt Outs, Transfers, and Coaching Changes affecting the 2023 Armed Forces Bowl:

The biggest loss on either side, by far, is not a player at all- it’s James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti, who departed to take the job at Indiana. Star quarterback Jordan McCloud is in the portal, but is expected to play, making this a last hurrah of sorts at the school where he made his name. As for Air Force, there are no significant departures, as is often the case for the service academies, where the sense of loyalty can be so strong.

James Madison:

Has any program ever had quite the meteoric rise we’re seeing from James Madison right now? Just two years ago, the Dukes were competing in the FCS, and now, they’re a fixture at the top of the Group of Five. Unfortunately, they have not yet been eligible to win the Sun Belt Conference, but expect them to be right in the mix to do so next season. They may not be undefeated, but a 12-1 record in just the team’s second FBS season, as well as their first bowl win, would be a tremendous accomplishment, especially in the wake of Cignetti’s departure.

The Dukes will largely be intact for this game, so they’ll be sporting the key contributors from both a top-50 offense as per EPA and the #10 defense by the same metric. Unfortunately, star edge rusher Jalen Green, who was on track to lead the country in sacks, will be out for reasons beyond his control, as he is injured. The offense, however, will be out in full force led by McCloud, who will look to put out a tremendous farewell performance as he attempts to add to his count of 40 total touchdowns. The Dukes have a pair of thousand-yard wideouts, Elijah Sarratt and Reggie Brown, making it quite the challenge to slow down the whole air attack, which ranks 11th by EPA.

Air Force:

Not to be outdone, Air Force is also coming into this game with both an offense and defense that rank in or at least right around the top 40 by EPA. The Falcons have put together another really strong season in year 17 under Troy Calhoun; they won’t reach double-digit wins for the third straight year, but 9-4 with a win in perhaps the best Group of Five bowl this season would still be a tremendous finish.

This group of future soldiers has been extremely fun to watch all season, with a shockingly balanced offense; usually ironically committed to the run, the Air Force has had quite the air attack this year. They don’t turn to the pass too often, but they’ve been efficient, ranking 30th in EPA per pass play. Quarterback Zac Larrier has only thrown it 62 times, but he’s turned that into 744 yards, six touchdowns and just a pair of picks. He’s also the team’s second-leading rusher, just after fullback Emmanuel Michel, who will look for his tenth score of the year against James Madison.

The Pick:

The presence of McCloud, and the emotional weight of his final game as a Duke at the end of a phenomenal breakout year, are enough to put me on the Dukes’ side in this one. JMU is the 14th-best team in the country by EPA per play, and even without their fantastic head coach, this is a cohesive, talented group that should be absolutely fine getting through this game with essentially the whole roster intact.

The Play: JMU -2.5

This is an article written by Will Schwartz

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