I know, I know, it sounds more like a Final Four match-up than a football bowl game but it is what it is. Dave Cutliff has done a great job earning the ACC COTY this season. He didn’t finish the way he would have liked but his team from that basketball school is pretty happy to still be playing this time of year. Let’s look at the match-ups.
Here’s what I said about the Blue Devils during my ACC Preview.
The general consensus is that the Duke Blue Devils are and always will be the worst team in the conference and they will struggle to win a conference game this year with a crazy cross over schedule traveling to Wake Forrest and FSU. However; head coach Dave Cutcliffe has done an admirable job trying to make it more than just a basketball school (yeah right) and returns 17 starters. They will put a better product on the field than the Maryland Terrapins’ and the BC Eagles.
I went on to say they would only win one game and they made a liar out of me by finishing 5th in the Coastal Division ahead of Virginia and ahead of Maryland and BC both overall. Lets look at this team.
Playmakers: On offense the big playmaker and the difference maker for the Blue Devils has been QB Sean Renfree. The 6’5″ 225lb senior from Notre Dame Prep in Scotsdale, AZ has been sensational this season completing 66% of his passes (260-392) for 2,755 yards with 18 touchdowns against only 8 INT’s. He has escapability but isn’t a runner, he will stand in the pocket and take it on the chin and make a play. His two favorite targets were close to both being over 1,000 yards. Jamison Crowder (1,025-8td’s) and Conner Vernon (955-7TD’s) give Renfree the help on the edge.
Defensively, the Blue Devils have relied heavily on CB Ross Cockrell, the 6’5″ 180lb junior leads the team and the ACC with 5 INT’s this season and is high on the team with 63 tackles. Picked on early in his career he has turned things around and has become a headhunter of sorts as well. The hard-hitting cornerback has made play after play down the stretch for the Blue Devils and will be important in run stopping support against the Bearcats.
Season High – Low The Blue Devils have endured two seasons within one. Once they got their 6th victory and secured their first bowl since 1994, things kind of fell apart. They upset their arch rivals UNC on October 20th to gain their all important 6th win and then began allowing an average of almost 50 points a game and close to 600 yards of offense. ACC COTY David Cutliffe has his hands full, he’s moved some WR’s to the secondary as he has in the past. He has had the tendancy of moving players where hey can be the most helpful. To win this game and stop the four game skid, he will have to coach his bottom off.
The Cincinnati Bearcats won the Big East this year and recently found out that their QB, Brendon Kay gets another year to play which will be huge for Tommy Tubberville in his first year at the helm next season. Kay has been hurt for most or all of the 2008 and 2011 seasons and was 3-1 as the starter this season. Let’s take a look at the Bearcats. They finished in a four way tie for first in the conference and may themselves be looking for elsewhere to land after the recent announcement that the basketball only schools are leaving. The Big Least may become the Big Lost.
Playmakers: QB Brendon Kay took over against Syracuse late in the season and never looked back. He has been the spark the team needed and led them to late season victories helping them win the conference. His favorite target is ultra TE Travis Kelce, finishing the year with 599 and 7 TD’s. Kay has had a good four games under center and has shown great patience in the pocket as well as having the feet to get things done running the ball.
Defensively, the Bearcats have a playmaker at linebacker that could play anywhere in America and has a solid future in the NFL. LB Greg Blair is a 6’2″ 252lb senior from Pittsburgh who has a had a productive year after the Bearcats lost star DE Walter Stewart, will close up the middle and provide help in pass covergae with Duke’s TE’s. Finished the seaosn with 123 tackles, 8 1/2 for loss, with 2 1/2 sacks and 2 INT’s. The Blue Devils will have their hands full keeping an eye on him.
Season High – Low: The Bearcats have had a solid season and were happy to finish with the record they have at 9-3 and finished in a four way tie for first place in the Big East. They lost back to back games to Toledo and then Louisville in late October but picked things up and finished on a two game win streak. They lost their coach to Tennessee and picked up Tommy Tuberville in a shocking move, but have an opportunity to show their new coach what they are capable of.
Ohio State Against Participants: You would think that the Bearcats and the Buckeyes would have storied history in football but the fact is that the divide in the early 60′s caused by the basketball rivalry wouldn’t allow it. The football program was never really up to the challenge until the 90′s and it was coach Cooper that gave them their first shot in 1999, which the Buckeyes won 34-20. Since then its been about Ohio State playing all of the instate schools and giving them a chance at the big bucks in both cases. Almost ended up costing the Buckeyes the title shot in 2002 as a Maurice Clarett-less OSU team struggle on the road but wound up on top 23-19. Buckeyes would win 34 to 24
Surprising to me, the Blue Devils and Buckeyes have net on the gridiron four times. Their first meeting took place way back in 1955 and the Buckeyes took one on the chin 20-14. The Buckeyes have won each of the three games after that and have not played them since 1981. Buckeyes would win now too 47 to 13
Expert Picks: Duke: Wva, Eric, Jason UC: Mali, Janelle, Gary, Tim
Prediction: I mentioned way back in my ACC preview that I really liked David Cutliffe and what he has been doing with this Blue Devil squad. He has had to move some players around and change some position, but it works for him. I think the Blue Devils are a team of the future but they have an opportunity playing close to home to please their fans and I see them doing so. I’ll never root for a Duke basketball team, but you can count me in for their underdog football team. Dookies 23 to 19