The Aggies (8-4) who dropped their last two games during the regular season have talked about how they are hungry for a victory, though it could be argued that a 52-year drought may make Duke (10-3) a bit hungrier. It could also be argued that a team that had such high expectations heading into this year with Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel may just be just a bit disappointed to be in Atlanta.
A&M couldn’t win its big games on their schedule losing every single game to a ranked opponent, though they played the best teams in the SEC close. The Blue Devils on the other hand won most of its big games and aside from a lopsided loss to Florida State it was a banner year for the once down on their luck bunch from Durham.
Duke’s season has generally been hailed as a success, while Texas A&M’s might be classified by some as a disappointment. Still it is hard to find anyone who really had given Duke much of a chances. Even the Chick-fil-A Bowl preview show had both hosts stating that the Blue Devils probably hadn’t seen anything like Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense; forget they played the No. 1 team in the nation, Florida State, and perhaps the best player in the country, Jameis Winston, just weeks earlier.
The Blue Devils will most assuredly be challenged the Manziel and the Aggies offense who is 5th in the nation in scoring offense (43. 6 points per game) , and 7th in passing. Duke’s defense has been much improved (46th nationally points against) despite the work over that Winston and the Seminoles gave them.
There is no doubt that A&M will score points but can Duke keep this game close. If you look at the Aggies defense (89th nationally points against) you have to think they might. Duke who is 50th in the country in points for (31.6 points per game) can score and if they can find some traction against a vulnerable looking Aggies defense this game could be a shootout.
Duke is going to have to do it without leading rusher Jela Duncan who has been suspended from Duke for violation of academic rules. Head coach David Cutcliffe has tapped sophomore running back Shaquille Powell, who came on strong as the season wound down, to start the bowl game.
The Blue Devils will also look to get its best player in Jamison Crowder the ball early and often. Duke is going to have to score if they want to win but they are also going to have to try and slow down Manziel who leads the Aggies in passing and rushing yards and touchdowns.
That starts with the defensive line. Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx, Sydney Sarmiento are all playing their final games and will all need to play their best game to get pressure on Manziel and force him into mistakes. That is easier said than done, though Manziel has not been perfect.
Duke doesn’t have to be perfect but they will have to play their best game to win.
Texas A&M- 38 Duke-31
This game will come down to making stops and I think A&M will make a few more stops than Duke. That being said this game will be closer than many are expecting and the Aggies will know they’ve been in a game when it is all said and done.
The time off to recuperate certainly will help Duke who will be prepared and if A&M doesn’t take the Blue Devils seriously they will pay a price. It could be the game, but it again will take a superb effort.