Nov 16, 2013; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Brandon Braxton (5) and running back Shaquille Powell (28) celebrate after Powell scored against the Miami Hurricanes at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
The countdown to the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl is down to just thirty minutes!
What are the keys that could carry No. 24 Duke to a victory over No. 21 Texas A&M? Here are my picks:
Pound the Rock
Losing top running back Jela Duncan hurts, but it doesn’t give Duke an excuse to avoid the running game. The absolute worst possible scenario Duke could find themselves in during the bowl is a duel between Johnny Manziel and Anthony Boone. As good as Boone is when he is on, I don’t see him keeping up with the Air Raid of Texas A&M without the aid of a strong rushing attack throughout.
This shouldn’t be that difficult of a task; A&M has been god awful against the run this year, finishing 108th in the country, and Duke has plenty of decent guys that have got it done all year in Josh Snead (547 yards, TD), Shaquille Powell (337 yards, 2 TDs), and Juwan Thompson (256 yards, TD). Backup QB Brandon Connette could also be a big factor in the running game, should Cutcliffe choose to give him extended playing time throughout.
Difficulty level: 2/5
Keep Manziel in the Pocket
Linebacker Kelby Brown has been wonderful this season, a reliable leader that has come up with big play after big play, but he’ll draw arguably his toughest test of the year tonight in spying on Manziel.
The former Heisman winner is as dangerous of a player as Duke will face this year, and the lack of pass rush on the Blue Devils’ part makes their assignment of containing him much more difficult. Manziel is turnover prone, however, and if Brown and the rest of the unit can find a way to pressure him on a consistent basis (or at the very least keep him in the pocket), the mistakes could fall right into the lap of
Difficulty level: 4/5
Oct 19, 2013; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone (7) celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the Virginia Cavaliers in the fourth quarter at Scott Stadium. The Blue Devils won 35-22. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
So far this year, we’ve seen okay Boone, good Boone, and really bad Boone. Inconsistency has been the theme of his 2013 campaign, but if Duke is going to keep up with the 5th-best scoring offense in the nation, they are going to him to be sharp out of the gates.
Make the easy throws, avoid turnovers, and get Jamison Crowder his touches. The formula seems simple enough, and Texas A&M won’t field a defense nearly as talented as the Florida State unit that swallowed Boone in the ACC Championship game. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope we get good Boone tonight.
Difficult level: 3/5
What are your three biggest keys? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know.