James Madison is playing in its first bowl game, but will do so without a handful of key pieces, including its head coach and starting quarterback.
After two successful seasons in the FBS ranks, James Madison head coach Curt Cignetti has jumped to Indiana and its starting quarterback Jordan McCloud hit the transfer portal. Will the team show up against Air Force, who lost its final four games of the regular season to miss out on the Mountain West Championship Game amidst a slew of injuries?
What's the latest on each team as we head towards the Armed Forces Bowl.
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James Madison vs. Air Force Odds, Spread and Total
Air Force vs. James Madison Betting Trends
- James Madison is 8-4 against the spread (ATS) this season
- James Madison has gone OVER in seven of 12 games
- Air Force is 4-8 ATS this season
- Air Force is 6-6 to the OVER
- Air Force's Troy Calhoun is 8-4 ATS as a head coach in bowl games
James Madison vs. Air Force How to Watch
- Date: Saturday, Dec. 23
- Game Time: 3:30 PM EST
- Venue: Amon G. Carter Stadium
- How to Watch (TV): ABC
- James Madison Record: 11-1
- Air Force Record: 8-4
James Madison vs. Air Force Key Players to Watch
Billy Atkins: McCloud is in the transfer portal, but could in theory play for the Dukes in the bowl game. If he doesn't go, it'll likely be Atkins, who appeared in three games this season with limited experience. This will be a significant change in the JMU offense, who bolstered the fifth most successful passing game in the country this season.
Zac Larrier: Larrier missed the team's final two games with a leg injury, but is expected to return to practice in the lead up to this game, which can raise the ceiling of this Falcons offense that sputtered in the final stretch of the season. If Larrier doesn't play, it'll likely continue to be a timeshare between Ben Brittain and the more capable passer Josh Busha.
James Madison vs. Air Force Prediction and Pick
Air Force under Troy Calhoun has been strong as a bowl team, mainly because the team's triple option is a tough prep in the mix of a glorified exhibition game. The Falcons have won four straight bowl games (covering all of them) and is 8-4 against the spread in all bowl games.
While James Madison has put up an insane level in its second season in the FBS ranks, this is going to be a shell of its roster without its head coach Cignetti, nor its dynamic quarterback in McCloud. He has passed for 3,357 yards this season and 32 touchdowns through the air while completing 70% of his passes. If McCloud doesn't go, expect this line to shift dramatically in the other direction.
Atkins has very little experience under center and I believe the drop-off is going to be massive for the Dukes offense that has been a bottom 10 rushing offense in terms of EPA/Rush. It also doesn't help that the team's leading rusher, Kaelon Black is in the transfer portal as well.
The Dukes defense has been stout all year, but the roster may be somewhat bare on that side of the ball as James Madison is set to be down three defenders that logged more than 650 snaps this season in James Carpenter, Mikail Kamara and Aiden Fisher.
Air Force may be getting healthier for this one with Larrier trending towards playing -- but it's worth noting that Air Force is tough to get a read on injury news on -- and that should lead to a massive boost in offensive play. Larrier, rushed for over five yards per carry on 123 carries and passed for 760 yards.
The defense is still elite and will face a James Madison team that has backups in the backfield. Air Force is 32nd in EPA/Play and should have an edge on both sides of the ball en route to an underdog victory.
Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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