Morehead State Eagles (0-0) at James Madison Dukes (0-0)
College Football: Saturday, February 20, 2021 at 12:00 pm (Bridgeforth Stadium/Zane Showker Field)
The Line: James Madison Dukes -41 -- Over/Under: 55 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
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The Morehead State Eagles will face the James Madison Dukes in a nonconference game in Harrisonburg, Virginia. This is the season opener for both squads. James Madison has won all three of the previous matchups against Morehead State, with the last meeting occurring in 2016. The Dukes have outscored the Eagles 184-21 in those meetings.
Morehead State, a member of the Pioneer Football League, is coming off a 2019 campaign where they posted a 5-7 record, which included going 3-5 in the PFL. MSU currently has 30 freshmen and nine transfers on its roster. Morehead State averaged 28.7 points and 401.6 yards of total offense, with 162.8 of those yards coming on the ground. MSU may continue to split time at quarterback with DeAndre Clayton and Mark Pappas. Pappas, who started 11 of 12 games, completed 57.38 % of passes (171-for-298) and threw 2,327 yards for 19 touchdowns, while Clayton was 27-for-45 with 277 yards passing and four touchdowns to go along with 164 rushing yards as well as four additional touchdowns. 2021 third-team PFL selection Issiah Aguero will likely handle the majority of the running back duties as he topped the 100-yard mark four times in 2019 and finished with 958 yards along with seven rushing touchdowns. Landon Hurst is the Eagles' top returning pass-catcher as he brought in 53 passes for 642 yards and six touchdowns last year. Junior Cam Marriott anchors the offensive line.
Defensively, Morehead State allowed 34.5 points along with 443.3 yards, with 246.1 coming on the ground one season ago. Defensive lineman Vaughn Taylor Jr., a 2021 Preseason All-American selection, and linebacker Justin Benvie lead the way on that side of the ball. Taylor Jr. was credited with 63 tackles with 18 takedowns coming behind the line of scrimmage while also registering 5.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries in 2019. Meanwhile, Benvie led the Eagles with 70 tackles with 4.5 tackles for losses.
James Madison, under second-year head coach Curt Cignetti, went 14-2 in 2019 and are the reigning CAA champions and FCS runner-ups as the Dukes fell to North Dakota State in the 2019 championship game. JMU is ranked fourth in the 2020-21 HERO Sports FCS Preseason Top 25 even though the Dukes return just seven starters, although they also bring back four critical specials team’s players. While JMU, which averaged 40 points and 465.8 yards of total offense in 2019, will have to replace star quarterback Ben DiNucci the Dukes will have their two leading rushers back. Percy Agyei- Obese will likely once again be counted to carry a major workload after rolling up 1,239 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019. However, Jawon Hamilton -- who chewed up 919 yards on the ground and reached the end zone five times -- will also get plenty of opportunities as well. Right tackle Liam Fornadel, an Athalon Preseason- All American, anchors the offensive line.
Lineman Mike Greene will be counted on to lead an inexperienced JMU defense that held opponents to just 15.6 points and 270.2 total yards of offense, which included only 74.3 rushing yards. Greene posted 53 tackles and led the CAA interior linemen with 11.0 tackles for loss as well as 7.5 sacks. Cignetti will also have the service of two December transfers in former UCF defensive lineman Mason Cholewa (19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for losses, and 1.5 sacks) and ex-North Carolina cornerback Greg Ross (57 tackles, 2.0 tackles for losses, nine pass breakups).
Pick: I expect James Madison to roll in this one and cover. I also like the over here.