Armed Forces Bowl: No. 24 James Madison (11-1, Sun Belt) vs. Air Force (8-4, Mountain West), Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. Eastern (ABC)
Line: James Madison by 1 1/2 according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Series record: First meeting.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
James Madison, which is completing its transition to the FBS level from FCS after being a two-time national champion in the lower division, plays its first bowl game after there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all the spots. The Dukes won 10 games against FBS opponents this year and were 6-0 in true road games before fifth-year head coach Curt Cignetti left for Indiana. Air Force is in its seventh Armed Forces Bowl, which is played on the TCU campus in Fort Worth, Texas. The Falcons have lost four games in a row since opening this season 8-0, but have won their last four bowl games.
Air Force running game vs. the James Madison defense, which leads the nation allowing only 61.5 yards rushing per game. Air Force ranks second, running for 275.8 yards per game and has four players with at least 400 yards rushing. The Falcons are also solid stopping the run, ranking 10th in rushing defense at 96.3 yards per game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
James Madison: Freshman cornerback D’Angelo Ponds has 50 tackles and is tied fourth nationally with 13 pass breakups. He also has a blocked punt, two interceptions and recovered two fumbles.
Air Force: Senior safety Trey Taylor was named the Jim Thorpe Award that goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He has 71 tackles, three interceptions and four passes defended. He was the first Thorpe winner from a non-Power Five conference team since 1995.
FACTS & FIGURES
Damian Wroblewski will be the acting head coach for James Madison. The offensive line coach is among only four full-time coaches still remaining for the bowl. The Dukes hired Bob Chesney from Holy Cross as their new head coach, but he won’t coach the bowl game. … James Madison is only the fifth Top 25 team to play in the Armed Forces Bowl, which began in 2003 when No. 18 Boise State beat No. 19 TCU. … Air Force is 2-4 in the Armed Forces Bowl after a 30-15 win over Baylor last year. Army (2017 and 2018) is the only team to win consecutive Armed Forces Bowls.
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