UNC vs. James Madison Prediction, Game Preview

UNC vs. James Madison prediction and game preview. The Tar Heels welcome the Dukes to Kenan Stadium on Saturday for a non-conference showdown.

UNC vs. James Madison Game Preview

When: Saturday, September 17 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Kenan Stadium
TV Broadcast: ACC/ESPN Network

The Tar Heels and the Dukes meet for the third time in history, with UNC looking to remain unbeaten. UNC beat Illinois in its last game, which followed an opening loss to Georgia in Atlanta. Junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two more scores to lead the Tar Heels to a 48-23 win in Champaign. Meanwhile, the Dukes have blowout wins over Morehead State and Central Connecticut State, outscoring the two teams 136-28. 

What to Know About UNC

The Tar Heels rode the arm of Trubisky to a big road win over Illinois. He was sacked twice, but he the offensive line did a solid job against an Illini defense that gave Murray State problems in its opener. North Carolina does need to get Elijah Hood going, however. Outside of a 62-yard scoring run, he finished with 26 rushing yards on 14 carries. Defensively, UNC prevented Illini quarterback Wes Lunt from doing much down the field. The secondary is strong, and just seven of Lunt’s completions went to wide receivers.

What to Know About James Madison

Everett Withers took the Dukes to the FCS playoffs in back to back seasons, which helped him land the head job at Texas State. So Mike Houston is running the show after helping The Citadel to a 9-4 season that included a first-round playoff victory over Coastal Carolina. James Madison brought back 16 starters, seven on offense and nine on defense, and it’s a team that loves to run the football. But the defense must make major improvements. The Dukes ranked No. 77 last season in scoring defense and No. 108 in third-down defense among 123 FCS teams.


Offense: Even. The Dukes are well-balanced, but Trubisky could be poised for a big season.

Defense: UNC. James Madison had it easy the first few weeks of the new season. A major challenge awaits against the Tar Heels.

Special Teams: UNC. Senior Ryan Switzer is one punt return touchdown away from tying Wes Welker and Antonio Perkins for the NCAA record (8). 

Coaching: UNC. Fedora is pushing the Tar Heels toward the upper crust of the ACC.

Intangibles: James Madison. The Dukes have nothing to lose, and they have an offense that can make things difficult for the UNC defense.

Matchup To Watch

Switzer vs. Brandon Ravenel 

We have seen for the last several years what Switzer can do, but Brandon Ravenel returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown in last year’s regular-season finale against Villanova, which helped the Dukes get into the playoffs. If James Madison wants to pull an upset this week, a big special teams play would help.

UNC vs. James Madison Betting Odds


Over/Under: N/A

UNC vs. James Madison Prediction

The Tar Heels should be able to get Hood going against a defense that will be completely overmatched. Trubisky will once again put up big numbers, and the Tar Heels will win their second in a row.

North Carolina vs. James Madison Score Prediction: UNC 44, James Madison 20  
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