Two of the streakiest teams in college football will do battle in the 2023 Armed Forces Bowl held in Ft. Worth, Texas. Air Force (8-4) started the year 8-0 before hitting the skids down the stretch while James Madison (11-1) was 10-0 before an OT loss to Appalachian State ended their bid for a perfect season.
James Madison is a -1.5 favorite for Saturday afternoon’s matchup (3:30 PM ET, ABC) but Air Force is a tough opponent due to their triple option offense. The Falcons are playing in the Armed Forces Bowl for the second straight season, beating Baylor 30-15 last year even though BU was playing close to home at Ft. Worth.
Why James Madison Has Value at -1.5
The Dukes just know how to win, coming a field goal by Appalachian State (in OT) in week 12 away from an undefeated season. James Madison bounced back nicely in the regular season finale, taking out their frustrations at Coastal Carolina with a 56-14 victory.
James Madison scored 42+ points in three of their last four games this year, and are powered by a passing attack that was 17th in the nation with 287.1 ypg. The Dukes scored 35.2 ppg which was 18th in the country – something the ground attack of Air Force may have a hard time keeping up with considering the Falcons were held to 19 points or less in four of their last six.
JMU QB Jordan McCloud had an even 3,400 yards passing on the year with 32 TDs to 9 INTs. He will play in the bowl game but the big attention is on the Dukes defense trying to stop the unique Air Force offense. JMU did put up impressive rankings on defense, the best in the country vs. the run (61.5 ypg) while allowing just 18.5 ppg.
Why Air Force Has Value at +1.5
This is a hard line to gauge, because it seems like the almost-undefeated James Madison should be bigger favorites on Saturday afternoon. Public betting is still split right down the middle 50/50, so this seems like a game that could go either way with such a small point spread of JMU -1.5.
James Madison had a great year and are eligible for a bowl game for the first time since moving to the FBS last season (were ineligible because of the transfer in 2022 despite being 8-3). That success has also cost the Dukes their coach though, as Curt Cignetti has moved on to the Big Ten to helm the Indiana Hoosiers. JMU has hired Bob Chesney to replace him, but their offensive line coach and a stable of assistants brought in for only three weeks will be in charge of the Dukes for the bowl game.
Air Force should get their QB Zac Larrier back after he missed the final two games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. Larrier is one of five Air Force players that amassed over 400 rushing yards this season – something that should come in handy to beat down a James Madison defense that hasn’t played in a month.
Free 2023 Armed Forces Bowl Betting Pick
James Madison could be vulnerable here with all the changes to their coaching staff, but Air Force is a hard team to back after their four game losing streak – two of which they were more than 18 point favorites.
Free Pick: James Madison -1.5