It’s here! It’s here! The Chick-Fil-A Bowl! Otherwise known as a bowl of chickens!
Or its alternate title, bowl of chicken!
Considering how awesome this game should be, it really should be called the HAM Bowl, don’t you think?
Well, I’ll stop digressing…here we go!
NO. 22 DUKE (10-3) VS. NO. 20 TEXAS A&M (8-4) (CHICK-FIL-A)
Time: 8:00 p.m.
KEY FOR TEXAS A&M
Just…I mean…some defense. Wait…I thought this was SEC football? I must have been mistaken. Seriously, guys. Have a little bit of pride. Texas A&M’s points allowed this season: 31, 28, 49, 13, 33, 38, 45, 24, 7, 41, 34, 28. And it’s not like, oh, those opponents scored but didn’t get yards. Nope. Everyone got yards: 351 through the air and 187.3 on the ground, on average. Every Texas A&M opponent this season except three got to the 400-yard mark of total offense, and the three that didn’t were Sam Houston State (390), Vanderbilt (329) and UTEP (198). Auburn, for one, put up 615 (!!!) on the Aggies. But the scary part if you’re Duke is that A&M only lost that Auburn game by four points. SO SERIOUSLY TEXAS A&M DEFENSE WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? Sigh. The numbers speak for themselves: just 20 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 16 quarterback hurries and 64 tackles for loss (27 of which came against Rice, Sam Houston State and UTEP). This defense isn’t even good in the red zone: 43 opponent trips, 37 scores, and 32 touchdowns! Just…nope. So yeah, if A&M continues its stretch of horrid defensive play, Duke will be in this game to the very end and might even win it.
KEY FOR DUKE
Score score score score and score some more. Texas A&M is going to put up points, because the Aggies have an elite offense. But as noted above, Texas A&M’s defense is…well, yeah. It’s not very good. Duke’s offense can be explosive - the Blue Devils had 37 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season - but that wasn’t what was propelling Duke during its winning streak. In fact, 29 of those 37 “big plays” came in the first seven games. Duke had 52 big plays total (including rushing) and 36 came in the first seven games. Seven of the 16 in the final six-game stretch were against Miami. But obviously, Duke can score. The 54 touchdowns this year were a school record. And what’s more important is that Duke always seemingly gets the big score it needs when it matters most - only towards the latter part of the season, it was via sustained drives more so than quick strikes. And Texas A&M’s opponents this year have racked up 63 such plays. SIXTY-THREE! Ugh. (See previous key for Texas A&M.) Time of possession is not a huge issue for either team, but of A&M’s 74:34 combined deficit in that category this year, over half of that deficit (38 minutes) came in A&M’s four losses alone. And the Aggies were -20:38(!!) in TOP in the loss to LSU. So, yeah. Can’t hurt to keep the ball for awhile, Duke, move the chains and keep Manziel off the field. All good things.
HERE’S A GUY
Johnny “Football” Manziel. Wait, I think I did that wrong. It’s either Johnny Football or Johnny Manziel. Either way, he’s been one of my personal favorite players to watch in college football over the last two seasons. He did show that if you cut him, he bleeds towards the end of this year - he completed just 61.9% of his passes in November (compared to 75% in October and 71.4% in August/September) for an average of 284.5 yards a game (he averaged 368.3 in October). And after entering November with 22 touchdowns to eight picks in eight games, he had 11 touchdowns to five interceptions in the final four games. But he was facing two of the better defenses in the country in LSU and Missouri, and he is still fourth nationally in yards per pass attempt (9.5). He led his team in rushing again with 686 yards, but he wasn’t as dynamic as he was last year with “just” two 100-yard games. What a lazy slacker. Anyway, in all seriousness, this is his last collegiate game and it’s been a helluva ride, Johnny. Duke’s going to have a heck of a time slowing him---and the Aggies’ passing game---down.
Anthony Boone. When Duke’s win streak began, Duke’s junior quarterback was healing from a broken collarbone. But he returned to action after the first win of said eight-game winning streak to put on a masterful performance against Navy, only to complete a combined 28-of-64 passes (43.8%) for two touchdowns and five interceptions in consecutive road games at Virginia and Virginia Tech. Duke won both, so there’s that, but there were question marks about Boone after those games, particularly Virginia Tech when he was 7-of-25 for no touchdowns and four picks. But he made plays when it mattered, like the rest of this Duke team did all year, and he got much better after that. In the next four games - all Duke wins - Boone was 71-of-99 (71.7%) passing with five touchdowns and three interceptions (all of which were against N.C. State). Boone tends to be a bit streaky with his accuracy throughout his career, and he fell back to Earth a bit against Florida State (understandably), completing just 50% of his throws for 138 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Boone finished the season completing 75.5% of his throws in Wallace Wade Stadium and 57.9% on the road or neutral sites, and so it’ll be interesting to see what he does here against a bad defense. He’ll have plenty of competition next year at quarterback (although the job will probably still be his to lose), and he’ll want to have a good showing in his final game of 2013.
STATS ARE FOR LOSERS
This is the first meeting between Duke and Texas A&M. … In a theme of ACC teams forcing their opponents to travel east, this is Texas A&M’s farthest trip east for a bowl game since 1957, when it played Tennessee in the 1957 Gator Bowl. … This is Duke’s tenth bowl game in school history (Duke is 3-6 all-time in bowls with the last win coming in 1961). … This will be Duke’s 1,000th football game overall in program history. … A win would give A&M its third straight bowl game win for the first time in program history. … The Blue Devils are 97-37-5 all-time as a nationally-ranked team, but they are 25-132-6 all-time against ranked opponents (2-1 this year, though).
Duke Win: GOOD VS. EVIL! PURE DUKE VS. EVIL A&M AND THAT EVIL MONEYMAKING QUARTERBACK MANZIEL! THERE ARE SPORTS GODS AND THEY ARE JUST! (Ignores all evidence to the contrary)
Duke Loss: No worries, Blue Devils. All in all, it was a fantastic season and the future is bright in Durham. Both for the Durham area in general, and for Duke football. You know who else says it’s going to be okay? This guy:
Texas A&M, 44-38. This is much, much more about my affection for Johnny Football’s game than it is about Duke. I think this will be a shootout, though, and ultimately Manziel is just too good. Love watching that guy play.