Belk Bowl Preview: Duke Blue Devils vs. Cincinnati Bearcats

Can Duke's High-Powered Offense Lead Them Past Cincinnati's Aggressive D-Line?

Can Duke’s High-Powered Offense Lead Them Past Cincinnati’s Aggressive D-Line?

Duke’s back in the postseason for the first time since 1994. Cincinnati, after tying for yet another Big East title, feels a bit burned after the ACC‘s realignment decision to take Louisville over the Bearcats. Will they take out their anger on the reeling Blue Devils?

Bowl Game: Belk Bowl

Location: Charlotte, N.C.

First Year: 2002 (Continental Tire Bowl)

2012 Participants: Duke Blue Devils (6-6) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (9-3)

Last Meeting: Never

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Duke (previous bowl game: 34-20 loss to Wisconsin in 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl)

Through eight games, the Blue Devils were the darlings of college football. At 6-2, they clinched their first bowl trip in 18 years all the way back in October. And yet, we’re looking at Duke much in the same way we normally do now, after four straight rough contests knock them down to 6-6. Simply put, Duke has one thing going for them: a prolific passing offense. Racking up over 277 yards per game, it’s hard to find a more impressive unit than this one, led by veterans Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon. Unfortunately, the defense has done little to stop other teams from putting up similar numbers in their own passing games. Ranked 97th in the country in passing yards per game, the Blue Devils have struggled mightily stopping big gains through the air (hammered home by the 25 passing touchdowns put up against them). When you make former Stanford starter Josh Nunes look like a Heisman contender, those numbers shouldn’t surprise you.

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Stanford 50, Duke 13: Blue Devils Crushed By Cardinal Passing Attack, Defense

Duke’s Offense Stood on the Sidelines for Most of Saturday Night’s Game Against Stanford — Both Literally and Figuratively

Sitting just five rows back from the Duke bench, there was a buzz about the team and a sense of hope on the sidelines. After last week’s big victory over Florida International, it appeared that David Cutcliffe’s program had finally turned the corner. But just one minute and seven seconds after kickoff, it was blatantly obvious nothing had changed for the Blue Devils.

Saying Stanford dominated this game would be an understatement. The early punt-return touchdown was a deflating blow for Duke, one that would set the tone for the rout. Quarterback Sean Renfree, who had an average game according to the box score (28/40, 200 yards), was the focal point of a listless offensive attack based solely on swing passes, and was also responsible for two of the team’s four turnovers. The running game was virtually non-existent, notching just 27 yards on the night — mostly attributable to playing from behind for 59 of the game’s 60 minutes. Most of all, the defense was simply out-manned. Just one week removed from a frustrating debut against San Jose State, Cardinal QB Josh Nunes completed long bombs at will, and finished up with 275 yards passing and three TDs. Duke failed to ever get significant pressure on the Stanford passer, and their receivers were regularly three or four steps ahead of the Blue Devil defenders. The only saving grace for Duke was its red zone defense, which managed to force four field goals in the first half and keep the deficit to “just” 20 points in the first half.

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