Today's Free Picks for
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Posted at 9:00 AM EST and odds are subject to change.
James Madison -4½ over East Tennessee St
Bridgeforth Stadium - Harrisonburg, VA
6:00 PM EST. The old FBS vs. FCS bias is freaking strong here, even if James Madison itself is now a FBS team. You see, the Dukes will be playing their first ever game as a FBS constituent as a newly appointed member of the Sun Belt Conference. As such, the market has very quickly expressed a chagrin toward the Dukes spotting points in its FBS coronation, as in the market’s view that is not supposed to happen to a newly welcomed side to FBS football. However, this bias overlooks the “ingredients”.
First off, there is Middle Tennessee State, a team that is taking back less points than they should be. To bring you up to speed on the characterization of the Blue Raiders, we can first highlight the fact that MTSU only won two games on the road in 2021. At UConn (which doesn’t say much) and at Florida Atlantic who rounded off their campaign with four straight losses. We are not one for dredging up ancient history but under their present skipper Rick Stockstill (who has been a fixture in Blue Raider football for nearly two decades), the Blue Raiders haven’t won a consequential away game in nearly four years when it upset a nine-win Marshall team. Make no mistake, a win at James Madison (albeit their first ever FBS game) would be consequential. But that has never been a hallmark of MTSU football.
Meanwhile, the Dukes of James Madison are very much the new Appalachian State. They are a team that has been a force in the FCS ranks and are primed to make the most of their jump to the next level of play. In 2021, the Dukes won 12 games and finished #3 in the polls after losing to the dynastic team that is North Dakota State in the FCS Semi-finals. In fact, James Madison is a power. Dating back to 2016, the Dukes have been in three FCS National Championship Games and were a National Semifinalist in two more seasons. Very simply, James Madison has an Ohio State-like approach to football; it knows how to win and then rinse, wash, and repeat. This team has been consistently elite. Their expectations for the forthcoming season are celestial as always; now they have the added motivation of making a name for themselves immediately in FBS ball.
They couldn’t draw a better opening opponent than Middle Tennessee State who, as mentioned, doesn’t fare well outside of Murfreesboro and who will be breaking in a new quarterback while looking to fill the void left by standout receiver Antawn Wells who left for South Carolina. The Dukes return 11 starters on both sides of the football and they also plugged in all holes left via the transfer portal. In essence, JMU is positioned to make an impact and by no means is this a case of the wrong-side being favored. However, the efficient market has taken the stand that an FBS team cannot be favored over an FCS team and as a result, it has driven this number way down to the price you see here. We now get the vastly superior side at a hugely reduced price. Finally, you are going to witness a Super Bowl atmosphere here, as this game has been sold out for weeks. Swallow the points!
James Madison -4½ -106 (Risking 2.12 units - To Win: 2.00)