Duke vs. Cincinnati: What To Watch in 2012 Belk Bowl

Jim Owens/Icon SMI; Lance King/Getty Images

Jim Owens/Icon SMI; Lance King/Getty Images

Yes, this is no misprint in case you were unaware that the Duke Blue Devils finally made a bowl game after all of the disappointing seasons dating back to the 1990’s.

The Dukies are in their first bowl game since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl against Wisconsin!

As most of you may have guessed, they ended up losing that game and have actually not won a bowl game since the 1961 Cotton Bowl!

Yes, Duke only went 6-6 and the ACC was borderline disgraceful, but their schedule was atrocious in terms of how difficult it truly was.

The great Phil Steele ranked it as the 39th toughest in America, and playing the likes of Clemson and Florida State could leave your team battered and bruised for weeks.

Coming out of the Big East is slightly worse according to Steele, as the Bearcats ranked just 84th in terms of toughest slates in America.

The Bearcats may have ended up at 9-3, but their offense is still very questionable at times for the amount of average defenses they faced. Outside of Louisville and Rutgers, the top-tier teams were not there for Cincinnati to get tested against.

Clemson and FSU absolutely torched the Blue Devils defense, making their stats padded up in the wrong direction. Duke does however have a fairly potent offense thanks to the ability from their pitch-and-catch mentality.

Sean Renfree has thrown for 2,755 yards with 18 TD and only 8 INT, and their magnificent trio out wide is borderline unstoppable.

The Bearcats weak link is their secondary and they will struggle to slow down the likes of Jamison Crowder, Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott.

The trio has combined for over 200 receptions and they can move the chains with the best of them. Duke’s defense is always brutal but they have improved so much on the offensive side of the ball they have a shot to pick up their first eight-win season since their magical 1994-1995 season.

Vernon is already the all-time Duke and ACC record-holder for most receptions in the history of its conference. Hauling in 273 pigskins in a tremendously productive four-year season is spectacular and he would love nothing more than a victory to end his career.

The amount of points in this one may be a boatload with the way Duke’s defense plays, but Cincinnati quarterback  Brendn Kay (taken over Munchie Legaux) has the ability to take over any game he chooses to with the wheels he has.

Not known for his rushing ability, George Winn and Ralph Abernathy have been quite the load in the backfield.

They should be able to gouge out the run defense of Duke, and they will need to because this Belk Bowl is played in the home state of Duke (Charlotte, NC home of Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium).

One better believe they will be giving it their all and will be as productive as they have ever been and this game eerily reminds me of the 2008 game between West Virginia and North Carolina.

The two teams may not bring the sexiness that Pat White and Hakeem Nicks did in that 31-30 thrilling finish in which the Mountaineers won, but this matchup will feature a lot of highlight-reel plays.

The Dukies will pull off this decent-sized upset and you just know somewhere Dick Vitale will be jumping for joy if this one ends in the favor of the Blue Devils.

Time: 6:30 p.m. Eastern (12/27)

Network: ESPN

Experts Pick: UC by 7

Danny V’s Pick: Duke 35, Cincinnati 31

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