Chick-fil-A Bowl breakdown: No. 22 Duke vs. No. 20 Texas A&M
Duke’s secondary showed that it was not afraid of Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, delivering some of the most forceful hits of the ballgame, especially early. But most of the Blue Devils’ best players on the back end of the defense are very young, and they’ve been mistake-prone at times. How much have they grown throughout the course of this season? If the ACC title game was any indication, quite a bit — along with the hard hits, they had two interceptions of Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. But ultimately, Winston and Florida State still had 330 passing yards and three scores.
What will last year’s Heisman winner, Johnny Manziel, be able to do against Duke? The seventh-ranked Aggies passing attack will be the best Duke has faced this year. That being said, Duke did limit North Carolina’s No. 23 passing offense late in the season and this will come down to how opportunistic Duke’s defense can be and how far the freshmen in the secondary have really come.
Few teams have been able to bottle up the Aggies. They have passed for 300 yards or more in eight games this year and 220 or more in all but one game (the season finale against Missouri, when they managed just 195).
Manziel is still one of the most exciting players to watch in college football, even if he came in fifth in this year’s Heisman voting and didn’t even vote for himself.
Manziel completed over 69 percent of his passes this year (fifth nationally) and averaged 311 passing yards a game with 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He ran for over 1,000 yards last year, but managed just 686 yards this year (still 5.2 per rush).
His game against Alabama sticks in the minds of most, as he nearly single-handedly knocked off the Crimson Tide earlier this year with 464 yards passing and five touchdowns (not to mention 98 yards rushing). He’s a dynamic player that can change a game seemingly whenever he wants.
1961 — A year ago, Duke reached its first bowl game since 1994 a year ago, and the Blue Devils might have reached back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history — but they still haven’t won a bowl game since the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Duke has snapped a number of negative streaks this year, and no doubt the Blue Devils will be looking to snap this one, too.
Duke’s defense is going to have its problems with Manziel, but A&M’s defense has struggled all year with every opponent. The Aggies are going to have problems slowing down Duke’s multidimensional offense, that is if if QB Anthony Boone can be more accurate than he has been in some games this season.
This is likely going to turn into a shootout and it’s hard to imagine Duke being able to keep pace with Manziel in what could be the final game of his college career.
The Blue Devils have had a special season, but when Johnny Football is on his game, there are few who can slow him down. Just ask Alabama.