Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#357 James Madison (JMU) vs.
#358 Appalachian State
Saturday, September 24, 2022 at 3:30pm EDT
Written by Mark Ruelle

The James Madison Dukes travel to North Carolina to take on this year's college football 'feel-good' story, the Appalachian State Mountaineers in a Sun Belt Conference matchup. James Madison comes into this matchup 2-0 with two-straight blowout wins to start the season. App State has had a whirlwind start to the season and sits at 2-1 following last week's thrilling last-second Hail Mary touchdown win over Troy. Saturday's Sun Belt matchup is set to kick off at 3:30pm EST.

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The James Madison Dukes are now 2-0 on the season heading into this showdown at Appalachian State. The Dukes improved to a perfect 2-0 with a 63-7 thumping of Norfolk State last Saturday. The Duke jumped out to a 35-0 lead by halftime and never looked back as they have now outscored their first two opponents, 107-14. The victory came with a heavy heart for JMU head coach Curt Cignetti, whose father, former West Virginia head coach Frank Cignetti Sr., passed on the morning of the game.

“Everyone just wanted to rally and play for [Curt and] play for his dad,” graduate running back and JMU captain Percy Agyei-Obese said, “and just get this win for both of them.”

JMU's offense, ranked 11th in the nation in scoring, more than doubled the output of Norfolk State. The Dukes had 462 yards of total offense compared with just 212 for Norfolk State. JMU played all three of their quarterbacks in the blowout win and the three QBs combined to go 19-of-25 for 227 yards and four touchdowns. Starting quarterback Todd Centeio was sharp, playing just the first half and going 12-of-17 with three touchdowns. The other story of the game for JMU was its ground attack. As a team, they rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns from four different backs. Percy Agyei-Obese led the way with 88 yards and two scores.

Defensively, the Dukes held Norfolk State to just 9 yards rushing in the game and just 2-of-10 on third down conversions. The defense also had a pair of takeaways and were led by James Carpenter who had eight tackles and 1.5 sacks in the win.

While they have not played nearly the level of competition that App State has in their first two games, you can't deny the numbers that James Madison is producing thus far. They are ranked 11th in points per game, 5th in offensive touchdowns per game and 7th in rushing yards per game. Defensively, they are sixth in opponents' points per game, first in opponents' yards per game and first in opponents' yards per play. The Dukes are +1 in turnover differential and are 3rd in the country in time of possession percentage.


A Wing and a Prayer

After pulling off a road upset-win for the ages at College Station over Texas A&M in week 2, the App State Mountaineers were on the brink of falling to 1-2 on Saturday at home against Troy. With time running out, Chase Brice's final heave of the game turned into a 53-yard, Hail Mary touchdown to Christan Horn off of a tip from teammate Dalton Stroman at the five-yard line. Horn scampered into the end zone setting of a wild celebration in a dramatic 32-28 App State win in their Sun Belt Conference opener.

"Wow. I'm thankful for a win and proud of our players for playing 60 minutes," App State head coach Shawn Clark said. "That's what our program is built upon — never giving up. I think God's a Mountaineer today."

App State had 456 yards of total offense in the game averaging 6.6 yards per play. Brice finished with 278 yards passing and two touchdowns while the Mountaineers rushed for 155 yards as a team for one core. Horn finished the day with 98 yards receiving on five catches. The Mountaineers were 7-of-15 on third down conversions on the day.

Defensively, App State allowed 25 first downs including 16 through the air. Troy threw for 302 passing yards against App State at an average of 13.2 yards per completion. They forced one turnover on the day, an interception by Dexter Lawson Jr., and had three sacks.

Let's take a closer look at the App State numbers through three games. They are 31st in the country in points per game, they have scored on 83% of their red zone chances, are 25th in total offense for the season an are 11th in time of possession percentage. On the defensive side of the ball, the Mountaineers are 90th in points per game, 55th in opponents' red zone scores per game, and 78th in opponents' passing yards per game. App State has a turnover differential of +1 on the season.

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The knee-jerk reaction is to take App State because they have been the most refreshing and interesting story in college football thus far this season. Their win over Texas A&M at College Station will likely be the upset of the season and the thrilling finishes to both the opener against North Carolina and last week's game against Troy were part of two of the most exciting fourth quarters in years. Still, concern has to creep in about the total package at App State. While the offense has been tough, the defense has been giving up yardage and points in droves. JMU, lost in the shuffle in this matchup, comes in with a number of positive streaks to digest. The Dukes have 12-straight regular season road wins, have won eight-straight games overall, 11-straight conference road wins and seven straight conference-opening wins. I've gone over the gaudy numbers they've put up in the opening two wins and their according rankings, albeit against less sexy opponents than North Carolina and A&M. This game will be played tight with the Dukes able to move the football on App State. One thing the Dukes have done exceptionally well this season is possess the football. With the 3rd best time of possession rate in the country, look for the Dukes to keep this game tight by keeping the ball out of the potent App State offenses' hands. This will be a hard-fought, field-goal game.

Take JMU with the points.

Prediction: JMU +7.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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While the spread has dropped over two points over the course of the week, the total has gone up a point. The oddsmakers like James Madison's ability to hang with App State and they seem to like both teams' ability to score on one another. JMU has the #2 scoring offense in the country after two games. They are also third in passing efficiency going up against an App State team that has been vulnerable to the pass. The over is 5-2 in the Dukes' last 7 games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game. App State's offense has certainly not been a slouch this season, including the 61 points they tacked on North Carolina in the opener. The over is 4-1 in the Mountaineers' last 5 games in September. They have scored 93 points in two home game this season already. They will be tested by the JMU defense but this is far and away the best offense that the Dukes have seen all season.

Take the over, 58.5 points.

Prediction: Over 58.5

Written By Mark Ruelle , "Mark Ruelle"

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.