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2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl Preview: Duke vs. Texas A&M


Despite finishing the regular season well beyond expectations, the Duke Blue Devils (10-3) likely have a sour taste in their mouths following the 45-7 beating they suffered at the hands of Florida State in the ACC title game. Luckily, the Devils will have the chance to redeem themselves against another top-tier program in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl today.

Duke’s opponent, the Texas A&M Aggies (8-4), may have less to prove after another solid season behind quarterback sensation Johnny Manziel, but with Manziel expected to be heading for the NFL following the season finale today, the Aggies definitely would love to finish the year strong.

“If we can win this game, it’ll be the first time in the history of this program we’ve won three bowl games in a row,” said A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, according to ESPN.com. “That’s significant. There’s been a lot of football games played and a lot of guys come through this room who can’t say they’ve done that. That can be real special for our seniors and it can really propel us in the offseason.”

For Duke to finish 2013 strong, it will need to accomplish what few teams have in the past two years – limit Manziel’s production and effectiveness, particularly off the scramble. To many squads, the challenge of corralling Manziel is a daunting one, but to Duke, it represents an opportunity for its defense to shine on the national stage.

“When we found out our matchup, we were all pumped about it because it’s awesome to play against a guy that exciting and an offense that good,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “It’s a chance to make a statement for ourselves, and it’s just fun. It’s the nature of a competitor.”

While Duke was successful in containing some of the ACC’s best offenses this season, the Devils struggled mightily against this year’s Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, in the conference championship game. So, a date with another recent Heisman-winning quarterback would seem to not suit the Devils well.

However, on the offensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils stand to find room to roam against an Aggies defense that allowed 30.9 points per game this season. To make matters worse for the Aggies today, they’ll be playing without starting linebacker Darian Claiborne, who has been suspended for the game. During the regular season, Claiborne was one of the few bright spots on the very spotty defensive side as the team’s co-leader in tackles with 89.

With that said, the Aggies haven’t needed a stingy defense to win games and they may not need many defensive stops today with the fourth best offensive unit in the country (538.2 yards per game). Considering A&M was able to score more than 43 points per contest in the SEC, it’s easy to imagine the kind of damage it could inflict upon Duke.

The Blue Devils will certainly put up more of a fight against the Aggies than they did against the Noles, but covering two touchdowns still seems like a tall order in a big-time bowl game – a stage on which Duke is not experienced playing.

Take Texas A&M to cover -13 in this one.

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