How Will James Madison Perform in First Bowl Game?

How Will James Madison Perform in First Bowl Game?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

While we don’t know who it will play, we know for sure James Madison will play in the program’s first bowl game as a member of the Football Bowl Subdivision this year.

The Dukes enter the bowl season fresh off a 56-14 pasting of Coastal Carolina last Saturday, which came a week after JMU’s lone loss of the regular season against Appalachian State.

One complicating factor for the Dukes this bowl season is their coach Curt Cignetti has been hired away by Indiana, forcing JMU to go with an interim coach for their first FBS postseason contest. And despite a 11-1 season, the Dukes only became bowl eligible when not enough Division I teams finished 6-6 or better. James Madison entered the year ineligible to play in a bowl because it is transitioning from a lower division.

Before the three teams joining the FBS this year, there have been 11 new teams to transition from FCS to FBS since 2010. Nine of those 11 teams have played in a bowl game. Utilizing College Football Reference, we found the statistics of those nine teams in their first bowl game after the transition to aid in your Virginia sports betting.

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FCS to FBS in First Bowl Game

Bowl Record 4-5
Average Points For27.0 points
Average Points Against27.0 points
Combined Point Differential0 points
Average Yards For392 yards
Average Yards Against353 yards
Average Turnovers1.6 turnovers
Average Penalties5.8 penalties

Heading into conference championship weekend for college football, ESPN BET Virginia lists Georgia and Michigan as the co-favorites to win the national championship at +185.

JMU, Jacksonville State Going Bowling

Of the nine first-time FBS bowl teams that have made their postseason debuts since 2010, four went on to win their postseason games, despite scoring the same number of points on average (27.0) as their opponents.

This year, the Dukes and fellow FBS newcomer Jacksonville State will make their bowl game debuts after the division failed to field enough bowl eligible teams (with a total of 79 eligible for the 82 available spots).

That lack of eligible teams overrode the NCAA’s FCS-to-FBS transition rules, which state a program has to wait until they conclude the two-year process before becoming eligible for postseason contests.

The Dukes can’t play in this weekend’s Sun Belt championship game — Virginia betting apps have Troy as a 5.5-point favorite over Appalachian State — because of that rule.

Based on other recent FCS-to-FBS teams making their bowl game debuts, we should expect a tight game, which would be a novel experience for a Dukes team that won six of its 11 by double digits.

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JMU in Need of a New Coach

Cignetti went 52-9 in Harrisonville, taking the Dukes to the FCS title game his first year in 2019 before leading the program through their seamless transition to the FBS ranks, where they’ve gone 19-4 over two seasons.

According to USA Today, Cignetti will receive substantially more at Indiana than the $677,311 he was paid by JMU (which ranked 108th in the FBS), though no contract terms have been released.

James Madison has hired a search firm to lead a national effort in replacing Cignetti, who led the program to an Associated Press ranking of No. 18 in 2023 after a smashing first season in the sport’s top division last fall.

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Christopher Boan has been covering sports and sports betting for more than seven years, including stops at, the Tucson Weekly and the Green Valley News.

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