#24 Duke Blue Devils (10-3) vs. #21 Texas A&M Aggies (8-4) 12/31- 8:00PM EST
CHICK-FIL-A BOWL- Atlanta, GA
Line: TA&M -11.5
In what is expected to be his final collegiate game, last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will lead his #21 Aggies against this year’s surprise team, the #24 Duke Blue Devils in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
The Blue Devils (10-3) will have yet another daunting task of trying to stop a great quarterback. In their ACC title game against No. 1 Florida State, they had this year’s Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston to contend with and lost the battle and game 45-7.
Now it’s Manziel who will provide another test.
“When we found out our matchup, we were all pumped about it because it’s awesome to play against a guy that exciting and an offense that good,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “It’s a chance to make a statement for ourselves, and it’s just fun. It’s the nature of a competitor.”
Having already faced Winston, the Blue Devils can’t really take anything from that game to use against Manziel because they have different styles and run different offenses.
Duke linebacker David Helton, who led the ACC with 122 tackles says Winston and Manziel are “two different quarterbacks.”
Winston “is definitely a scrambler as well, but he’s not as much as a scrambler as Manziel is,” he added. “Manziel is built on scrambling. … He likes to sit back there and kind of make magic happen, whereas Winston is more a bigger guy and he likes to sit in the pocket a little more than Manziel does. Different mindsets for both of them.”
Manziel is expected to enter the NFL draft in April, but the redshirt freshman hasn’t reveled his plans.
“I’m not going to reflect on that until it is his last day,” Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. “All I can tell you is what he has done for the university up to this point (is) well-documented. His numbers speak for themselves. He is without a doubt the most exciting player in America.”
Manziel was the first freshman to take home the Heisman last year, but this season came in fifth in the voting. He has been mostly unavailable for the media this year to avoid any distractions to his team.
Most thought Texas A&M (8-4) will contend for a national title, but went 0-4 against ranked opponents and are coming off back-to-back losses to LSU and Missouri.
“If we can win this game, it’ll be the first time in the history of this program we’ve won three bowl games in a row,” Sumlin said.
Duke has had great year, setting a school record for wins, beat two Top 25 opponents, won their first Coastal Division title in the ACC and actually shut out Florida State for the first quarter before the Seminoles ran away with it.
“Once you play against the best and you play against somebody else, you can look at it and say, ‘OK, we played against the best, so what (else) is there out there?” freshman cornerback DeVon Edwards said. “If we do good against them, we should do good against anybody.”
The Blue Devils are led by Anthony Boone, who lost his first career game as a starter in the ACC title game, and says trying to outplay Manziel “doesn’t win football games.
“Guys like that are going to put up numbers. To try to go out there and compete with them is where I’ll try to do too much and mistakes will happen,” Boone said.
Boone had three turnovers against the Seminoles and a repeat performance will not bode well for their chances against the Aggies who can put points up behind Manziel, as the oddsmakers have made them a big (minus -11.5) point favorite on Tuesday night, but get the latest lines on the game up until kickoff right here at Wonder Punter.
The Blue Devils will be without their rushing leader Jela Duncan (562 yards), who was suspended for an undisclosed violation of its academic policy.
Texas A&M suspended standout freshman linebacker Darian Claiborne who is tied for the team lead with 89 tackles. He was arrested Sunday on two drug possession charges.
Duke will have a chip on their shoulder to prove to the critics they can play with the big boys, but Texas A&M has too many weapons to stay with and I predict the Aggies capturing their third straight bowl game and Manziel going out a winner.
Prediction/Pick: Texas A&M
By Mario Martinez- Wonder Punter