Chick-fil-A Bowl breakdown: Duke Blue Devils vs. Texas A&M Aggies
Duke (10-3) vs. Texas A&M (8-4)
Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: All signs point to this being Johnny Manziel’s final game with the Aggies. There has likely never been a college player as captivating as Manziel — both on and off the field — during such a short career. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner finished fifth in voting this December after closing his redshirt sophomore campaign with forgettable performances against LSU and Missouri, respectively. But Manziel remains an improvisational nightmare for opposing defenses. He finished with 4,418 yards of total offense and 41 touchdowns this season. Texas A&M is a particularly unfortunate draw for Duke. After having their eight-game winning streak snapped against Jameis Winston and Florida State in the ACC title game, the Blue Devils must close the season against another Heisman-winning quarterback.
• Keep an eye on: Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder. Manziel and Texas A&M’s offense are as potent as any unit in the country, but the Aggies’ defense seemingly can’t stop anybody. It allows 460.3 yards per game, 105th in the FBS. That should have Crowder, who amassed a school-record 96 catches and 1,187 receiving yards in 2013, licking his chops. A&M gives up 7.34 yards per passing attempt and has allowed 28 passing touchdowns this season. Even if Manziel has a vintage outing, the Aggies might not have much wiggle room if their defense can’t handle Crowder on the edge.
• Did you know: The Blue Devils have outscored their opponents by 76 points in the fourth quarter this season. Under head coach David Cutcliffe, Duke is 26-2 when leading after three quarters.
• Final analysis: The job Cutcliffe has done in Durham has been nothing short of remarkable. Duke captured a program-record 10 wins this season and clinched the ACC Atlantic Division. Still, it’s hard to envision the Blue Devils’ defense — which surrendered 569 yards to Florida State on Dec. 7 — handling Manziel and A&M’s attack. Quarterback Anthony Boone, Crowder and Duke’s offense must find their groove to remain within striking distance. But expect Manziel to return to Heisman form what will likely be his farewell performance.
• The pick: Texas A&M 41, Duke 27