James Madison vs Air Force (12:30pm)
James Madison is set to make its debut at the FBS-level bowl, marking a significant milestone for the team. The Dukes had an impressive season with an 11-1 record straight-up and an 8-4 record against the spread. Their only defeat occurred in overtime against App State on November 18. Notably, the over bet was successful in four of JMU's last five games.
In contrast, Air Force experienced a late-season downturn, losing its final four regular-season games and finishing 0-4 ATS. Despite this, Air Force has a strong track record in bowl games, winning its last four and covering the spread in each. Last season, the Falcons defeated Baylor 30-15 as a three-point underdog.
James Madison's journey at the FBS level has been characterized by overcoming numerous challenges. The team excelled in situations that were expected to be let-downs or flat spots. However, the upcoming bowl game raises the question of whether these challenges have finally caught up with them. The team's 19-4 record in its first two FBS seasons suggests a strong performance, but changes are evident. Head coach Curt Cignetti is departing for Indiana, and many assistants are following him. Interim coach Damian Wroblewski will lead the team through the bowl game, with five temporary coaches filling in.
The transfer portal has taken a toll on James Madison, with key players, including starting QB Jordan McCloud and defensive standouts, entering it. McCloud's availability for the bowl game remains uncertain as of Tuesday. In contrast, Air Force, which faced a late-season collapse due to injuries and attrition, has had time to recover during the month-long break and is expected to be close to full strength.
The matchup pits a team largely unaffected by the transfer portal against another that has undergone significant changes. James Madison, despite its commendable achievements over the past two seasons, is now dealing with a depleted coaching staff and roster. While credit is due to JMU, the circumstances leading up to the bowl game are not how the Dukes envisioned ending their season.
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Pick: Air Force ML (-129)
🍀Best of luck!