College Football Week 3 Best Bet: James Madison has the upper hand against Troy

2RRYERJ James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud looks to make a pass during an NCAA college football game against Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Kropf)

• James Madison is rolling: The 2-0 Dukes are coming off a win over Virginia in which their offensive line and stout run defense shined.

• Bet the Dukes' moneyline (+130) and spread (+3): There is a huge advantage in the trenches for James Madison, whose offense is too good to be getting a key number against Troy.

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Week 2 Betting Recap

We highlighted Houston and Rice to go under 52.5 points as last week's featured college football bet. After a scoreless third quarter, the teams had combined for 35 points (28-7 to Rice), but Houston scored on the last play in the fourth quarter to push the total over. Ultimately, there were 84 points in the game after four overtime touchdowns.

The much-talked-about game of Week 2 was Nebraska and Colorado. The Buffaloes found themselves behind the chains often early in the game and had to convert multiple long third downs to keep themselves on the field, but quarterback Jeff Simms' turnovers were too much for Nebraska to stay competitive.

The market reacted quite heavily to this result, with Colorado moving from an opening -10.5 against Colorado State in Week 3 right out to -23. Colorado State possesses one of the worst defensive units in the country by expected points added per play, so the Colorado offense should have a much easier time getting things going on early downs this week. While the Buffaloes' offensive line and Sanders’ inability to avoid sacks is a concern, there is no stopping the Colorado hype train.   

James Madison @ Troy: James Madison +3 (-110 Caesars) & James Madison ML (+130 FanDuel)

This James Madison offense, now led by Jordan McCloud, is too good to be getting a key number against Troy. The Trojans' defense will be the best unit the Dukes have faced so far, but James Madison’s dynamic dual-threat offense is tough for teams to handle at this level. Three of their five receivers are posting more than two yards per route run, and their triple-headed running back team has more than 300 yards between them in two games behind an offensive line that is producing almost three yards before contact per rushing attempt for their running backs. Coupled with a stout run defense that limited Virginia to 1.25 yards per carry last week, there are multiple avenues to success for James Madison. 

Troy showed real offensive frailties last week against Kansas State, most notably in the run game, posting -0.626 EPA per rush play and a success rate of just 13%. Troy’s offensive line finished with just a 40.5 pass-blocking grade against Kansas State and a weak 57.7 grade against a lower-level opponent in Stephen F. Austin in Week 1. There is a huge advantage in the trenches for James Madison when Troy has the ball. 

The weakness of the Dukes' defense is their coverage, and that will help the Trojans produce some offense. But given Troy's offensive line weaknesses, James Madison will be able to put pressure on Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson, who has two interceptions through two games but is actually overachieving compared to his five turnover-worthy plays. If Watson can not keep his waywardness under control in a game where he will likely find himself under pressure a good amount, this is going to be a long day for the Troy defense.

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