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For the second straight year, No. 25 James Madison is drawing double-takes as a rankings interloper.

In their second year in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Dukes (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt) are again making noise, both for their record and for still being ineligible for a bowl game.

The Virginia school is serving a two-year ban from the postseason, its penance for transitioning from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Last year, when James Madison started with five straight wins and hit the rankings at No. 25, it went on to lose its next three games.

The Dukes hope that last year's experience will pay dividends on Saturday night when they host Old Dominion (4-3, 3-1) in their homecoming in Harrisonburg, Va.

"Last season when we were ranked there was a lot of hoopla," JMU's fifth-year coach Curt Cignetti said Monday. "This team has learned lessons from the past. It's very mature. They have been extremely focused, day in, day out."

The lessons were evident earlier this month when JMU dominated Georgia Southern 41-13. A year ago, it was the Eagles who knocked off the newly-ranked Dukes, 45-38, triggering their three-game slide.

On Thursday of last week, JMU overcame another nemesis as it beat Marshall for the first time, winning on the road, 20-9.

Jalen Green registered five of the Dukes' eight sacks, matching a program record, while quarterback Jordan McCloud threw for 264 yards and tacked on 69 yards rushing.

McCloud, a former starter at South Florida and Arizona, has been a good fit in Cignetti's pass-oriented offense.

McCloud made a quick impression in his second game, rallying the Dukes to a 36-35 win at Virginia as he threw the game-winning touchdown pass with 55 seconds left on Sept. 9.

Old Dominion coach Ricky Rahne said on Monday that he has been impressed with McCloud's decision-making.

"This is, from me, an ultimate compliment when I say this, the ball's going where it's supposed to go," Rahne said. "And he will sit in that pocket and he will take one right in the teeth in order to throw a ball."

ODU is coming off a 28-21 win over Appalachian State as Keshawn Wicks scored the clinching touchdown on a 16-yard run with 48 seconds to go.

Wicks finished with 82 yards and two TDs on 12 carries while Kadarius Calloway contributed 104 yards on 13 rushes.

The Monarchs' ground game will be tested against a Dukes defense that leads the FBS in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (36.1) and fewest per carry (1.2).

Green leads the unit with an FBS-high 18 tackles for a loss, with 13 of them sacks. The Dukes have held two teams to negative rushing yards this year.

Last season, James Madison beat Old Dominion for the first time, handing the Monarchs their worst loss of 2022, 37-3, in Norfolk, Va.

Cignetti likes his team's mindset as it prepares for its final five games, even if the Dukes can't play for a title.

"I think this team is really focused on taking care of business and doing something special," he said.

--Field Level Media

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