ACC: George Winn

Belk Bowl keys

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
11:30
AM ET
Here are three keys to watch for Duke against Cincinnati in today’s Belk Bowl (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN):

1. Stop the run. It’s the priority, as Duke’s rushing defense is No. 102 in the country, allowing almost 200 rushing yards per game (199.83) -- and Cincinnati is averaging 199.75 on the ground. Bearcats running back George Winn leads the team and the Big East with 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. In each of Duke’s four losses to end the regular season, the Blue Devils allowed an average of 294.5 rushing yards, and Georgia Tech and Clemson both surpassing 300.

2. Throw the ball downfield. Quarterback Sean Renfree is going to have to stretch the field and utilize his top two targets, Jamison Crowder (70 catches) and Conner Vernon (75 catches). Duke will need to try to exploit some weaknesses in Cincinnati’s secondary. The Bearcats are No. 72 in the country in pass defense, allowing 243.5 yards per game.

3. Don’t get overwhelmed by the spotlight. This is a major milestone for Duke, as the program hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1994, and it hasn’t won a bowl game since 1961. A victory over Cincinnati would not only snap a 51-year drought, it would also be a huge confidence-booster and springboard for the program heading into the offseason. Young specialists must continue to be solid, the passing game must continue to flourish, and Duke can’t get rattled or awestruck by the moment.

Will Duke upset Cincinnati?

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
10:30
AM ET
College football guru Phil Steele has come out with four bold predictions for the non-BCS bowl games.

No. 1 on his list? Duke will upset Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

Steele argues that Duke has better skill players on offense, and the Blue Devils will be able to take advantage of a Cincinnati pass defense that has looked so-so at times this season. He also believes the Duke defense will be able to play man coverage and stack the box to slow down the Cincinnati offense and George Winn.

I agree that the best way for Duke to attack Cincinnati is to go right after the pass defense. But Steele fails to mention that Cincinnati is very active on the defensive front, finishing second in the Big East with 31 sacks and 74 tackles for loss. The Bearcats' strength is in their front seven, so if they are able to get to Sean Renfree, he won't be able to pick apart the Cincinnati secondary.

Further, the Duke defense was terrible during its four-game slide to end the season, giving up an average of 49.5 points per game in those losses. While I realize Cincinnati is not Florida State and Clemson, the Bearcats have been able to win games with teams stacking the box and trying to slow down Winn. The big X factor to me is how Cincinnati responds with interim coach Steve Stripling in charge. There is simply no way to predict that, but by all accounts, players seem fired up to prove people they will be just fine without Butch Jones.

You see where I'm going with this. Cincinnati should win.

There is one other bold prediction that I disagree with on this list. Steele says the Las Vegas Bowl between Boise State and Washington will be the lowest-scoring game. Put me down for this prediction: Rutgers versus Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl will be the lowest scoring non-BCS game.

Belk Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
9:53
PM ET
Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3) vs. Duke Blue Devils (6-6)

Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. ET, Charlotte, N.C. (ESPN)

Cincinnati take by Big East blogger Andrea Adelson: Per the usual rite of the preseason, Cincinnati was not picked to win the Big East.

Per the usual rite of the season, Cincinnati won a share of the Big East.

The Bearcats, it seems, exceed expectations every season. But this one may have been Butch Jones’ best coaching job at Cincinnati when you consider just how much talent he lost off a 10-win team that finished 2011 in the Top 25. Jones had to replace his starting quarterback, running back, half his starting offensive line, his starting defensive tackles and his starting middle linebacker. Just to name a few.

Without them, he was left 65 first- and second-year players to try and carry on the tradition that has been established. They were able to do that, despite losing their team leader in defensive end Walter Stewart (back) and switching quarterbacks for the final month of the season.

Brendon Kay delivered wins in three of the final four games of the season after replacing Munchie Legaux, but the true story centered around the running game. George Winn emerged as one of the biggest surprises in the Big East, rushing for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns.

He averaged more yards per game (100.3) than Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead did a year ago, and was a big reason why the Bearcats ran for nearly 200 yards per game. Travis Kelce was a huge surprise at tight end, too, leading the team in receiving yards (599) and touchdown receptions (7).

Defensively, Cincinnati played extremely well despite losing JK Schaeffer, Derek Wolfe, John Hughes and Stewart. Greg Blair was a huge presence in the middle, and finished second in the Big East in tackles (123). All of these standout performances added up to yet another Big East title, and a shot at a 10-win season for the fifth time in six years.




Duke take from ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The Blue Devils finally got over the hump in the fifth season under coach David Cutcliffe, who was named the ACC’s Coach of the Year after leading the program to its first bowl game since 1994.

For the first time in decades, Duke football was relevant in November, as the program had a legitimate chance to win the Coastal Division. Despite the achievement of reaching the six-win mark, most within the program would concede they let an even bigger opportunity slip away.

With a 33-30 win over rival North Carolina on Oct. 20, Duke became the first team in the Coastal Division to become bowl eligible this year. Problem was, the Blue Devils didn’t do a thing in the win column in the following weeks. After beating UNC, Duke ended the season with four straight losses, dropping out of the ACC race for good with a 42-24 loss at Georgia Tech on Nov. 17. Duke had the misfortune of an unforgiving cross-over schedule that included back-to-back games against Atlantic Division leaders No. 12 Florida State and No. 13 Clemson. The Blue Devils were humbled in those games and outscored 104-27. They still had a chance to win the division, but the defense had no answer for Georgia Tech’s spread option offense.

Still, it was a milestone season for Duke that included receiver Conner Vernon asserting himself as the ACC’s all-time leader in career receiving yards. The Blue Devils are ecstatic to be playing in any bowl, but to have the opportunity to stay in-state and continue practicing will be the biggest rewards. Duke is making its ninth bowl trip and has a 3-5 record in postseason games. The Blue Devils’ last bowl trip was a 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl Game in Tampa, Fla. The game marks the first appearance by the Blue Devils in a bowl game in North Carolina.

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