Thursday, December 27, 2012
Belk Bowl keys: Cincinnati
By Matt Fortuna
Three keys for Cincinnati in tonight's Belk Bowl matchup against Duke:
1. Establish the run: George Winn led the Big East in rushing yards with 1,204, and he averaged more yards per game this season (100.3) than Isaiah Pead did last season when the latter was named the conference's offensive player of the year. The redshirt senior keyed the Big East's No. 2 rushing attack, and the Bearcats would be smart to ride that in the early going against a Duke defense that has surrendered 269.8 yards per game on the ground over the season's final six games.
2. Limit the big pass: The Blue Devils had three players top the 600-yard receiving mark this season and boast the ACC's career receiving yards leader in Conner Vernon, though Jamison Crowder (70 catches, 1,025 yards, eight touchdowns) is actually the team leader in receiving yards. Cincinnati led the Big East in pass efficiency defense this season, and the Bearcats have held their past four opponents to fewer than 17 points, with three scoring just 10. Their 14 interceptions were good for second in the Big East.
3. Find Travis Kelce. The first-team All-Big East tight end did his best work down the stretch of the season with Brendon Kay under center, catching 17 passes for 285 yards with three touchdowns over his past three games. He also threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Kay in the regular-season finale at Connecticut. For the season, Kelce led all Big East tight ends with 599 receiving yards, a school record for a tight end.