College Football FCS Playoffs Betting Odds & Pick for James Madison vs. VMI (April 24)
Justin Tafoya/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach Curt Cignetti of James Madison University.
- James Madison, a historical FCS powerhouse, will take on VMI in an in-state rivalry in the FCS Playoffs.
- With a large spread separating these Virginia-based teams, Kyle Remillard is looking to the total to find betting value.
- Check out Remillard's full betting preview complete with updated odds and a pick based on his analysis below.
James Madison vs. VMI Odds
|James Madison Odds||-14.5|
|Moneyline||-670 / +420|
|Time||Saturday, 2 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday afternoon and via DraftKings.|
The VMI Keydets will travel less than an hour to make their FCS playoff debut Saturday when they square off against the James Madison Dukes in the first round.
The Keydets have been making program history all year, which includes their first winning season since 1981. The Virginia Military Institution is 6-1 and secured its first Southern Conference title since 1977. The Keydets defeated Furman for the first time in 27 years, plus they experienced their first-ever victories on the road over Western Carolina and Samford.
VMI hopes to have some magic left in this Cinderella season as it matches up against one of the top FCS programs in recent years in James Madison.
The Dukes have been a powerhouse within the FCS, finishing this season with a 5-0 record and boasting a combined 56-8 record over the last five years. James Madison has made it to the FCS Championship in three of the last four years, including a win during the 2016 campaign.
This season, the Dukes have leaned on their dominant defense and rushing attack to keep them unbeaten. However, they will be tested by the Keydets’ pass-heavy offense.
Most VMI players only wish for the opportunity to be recruited by the James Madison staff, with this in-state battle being a classic matchup of big brother versus little brother.
James Madison Dukes
The Dukes entered the final week of the regular season ranked No. 1 in the FCS polls. However, the selection committee did the Dukes no favors by rewarding them with the overall No. 3 seed behind South Dakota State and Sam Houston.
Head coach Curt Cignetti had some sarcastic comments for the committee, thanking it for making his job easier by providing his team with extra inspiration.
The James Madison defense has been stellar all season, ranking first in the FCS in total defense by allowing just 175.6 yards per game. The Dukes rank second in scoring defense, holding opponents to a measly 9.8 points per game. No team has been able to successfully run the ball against them, with opponents averaging just 45.4 rushing yards per game.
James Madison shut out Morehead State to open its season, then held Richmond to just six points in its season finale. No opponent could score 20 or more points on its stingy defense.
Offensively, the Dukes have been just as dominant, scoring 33.8 points per game. They’ve rushed for 236.0 yards per game and punched in 15 touchdowns on the ground through seven different players.
Cole Johnson is James Madison’s game-managing quarterback who has thrown for 907 yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions. His top target — Kris Thornton — leads the team in both receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. This game will hit extra close to home for Thornton, who was a standout at VMI before transferring to James Madison in 2019.
Inside the red zone, Cignetti’s offense has been extremely efficient, scoring on 91.6% of its 24 trips that have resulted in 15 touchdowns.
The Keydets have heavily relied on their passing game to lead them to their 6-1 record during the spring campaign. After losing quarterback Reece Udinski to a knee injury and his pending transfer to Maryland, the Keydets turned to Seth Morgan, who took the job without missing a beat. Morgan threw for eight touchdowns and just one interception in his three games as the starter.
This is a fast-paced offense that ran the sixth-most plays per game and completed the most passes of any FCS team.
Jakob Herres, a 6-foot-4 wide receiver, has been a monster for the Keydets air-raid attack, averaging 115 receiving yards per game. Herres exploded against Wofford, catching 15 passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
Running the ball isn’t exactly the strength of the VMI offense, and to make matters worse, it’s facing the top FCS rush defense. James Madison’s front seven is allowing just 1.6 yards per carry this season.
VMI players and coaching staff have continued to discuss their excitement for matching up with James Madison. They know they’re big underdogs, but also understand they have nothing to lose, and that makes them dangerous.
Betting Analysis & Pick
James Madison is going to be able to control the line of scrimmage, thus be able to move the chains with its dominant rushing attack.
On the other side, VMI is going to unleash Morgan, who has averaged 344.6 passing yards a game since taking over under center. The underdogs should be able to move the ball on offense through the air, as they’ve completed 73.4% of their passes and average 7.45 yards per attempt.
These teams average more than 70 plays and 430 yards of offense per game. James Madison will have success running the ball, while VMI will be able to move the sticks through the air.
Cignetti might keep his foot on the gas pedal to re-establish the Dukes as the premier FCS team in Virginia, plus to get back at the committee for the No. 3 seed. However, I’m wary of laying more than two touchdowns against this VMI offense.
I’m playing the total over 45.5 points in an up-tempo game, where I think both offenses should find the end zone plenty.
Pick: Over 45.5 (up to 46).