The most recent time Duke played in something approaching a major bowl game was when the Blue Devils faced Johnny “Football” Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Always ready to contribute to the decline and fall of Western civilization, ESPN picked out a pinup-worthy model shot of Manziel and ran it full-screen in strobe light about 400 or 500 nauseating times.
Texas A&M won, of course, and Duke found itself again playing in minor bowls over the past 2 seasons. Garrison Keilor’s – er, I mean, David Cutcliffe’s program had a last laugh of sorts when the egotistical and selfish Manziel flamed out of the NFL with alcohol and drug problems. But the team has only won 5 of 13 games in the postseason throughout its history.
The Temple Owls will be facing Duke in the Independence Bowl independent of coach Geoff Collins, who has left to turn Georgia Tech into Vanderbilt by running the same plays as 100+ other teams, following a gaggle of winning seasons under Paul Johnson. But a promising Temple squad is left behind with an interim head coach, Ed Foley.
In a curious trend that seems to be cropping up a lot this year, the O/U total for the Independence Bowl is falling while the point spread widens.
Who: Duke Blue Devils vs Temple Owls
When: Thursday, December 27th, 1:30 PM EST
Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
Lines: Duke (+4.5) vs Temple (-4.5) / O/U Total: (55)
Foley gave a speech of epic proportions in front of the press to preview his team’s impending performance in Shreveport. The soon-to-be-official permanent skipper Manny Diaz is going to inherit an Owls team that is hot and clicking on all cylinders as the 2018 season comes to a close.
The only team to snatch victory away from the Owls in the last 7 ball games is UCF, those pesky self-proclaimed national champions who have won 25 games in a row. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo started the year riding the pine, but has navigated the Owls to a 7-2 mark as starter. Russo has had a rocky time protecting the football and has thrown for 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but he’s a locker room leader who wins games….with the help of an excellent defense. Opposing quarterbacks have had a miserable time throwing against this secondary that ranks 7th in the country, allowing just 166.3 passing yards per game.
Exceptional upperclassman RB Ryquell Armstead has tallied 1,098 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
After a promising 5-1 start to the 2018 campaign, the Duke Blue Devils have limped down the stretch to finish 7-5. One has to wonder if the gridiron Dukies even want to be in Shreveport after getting blown to smithereens in their last 2 contests. The Devils were out-scored by Clemson and Wake Forest to the tune of 94-13.
Eyes of NFL scouts will be on redshirt junior QB Daniel Jones, however. He could potentially be playing his final game in a Blue Devil jersey. The 6’5” gunslinger has thrown for 2,251 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions this season. Senior speedster T.J. Rahming has been a workhorse in the passing attack and Jones’ favorite target on a number of Saturdays.
With NFL-prospect players sitting-out bowl games across the FBS, it’s refreshing that Jones is planning to play in the Independence Bowl. A closer look at his skills:
Jones has a lot of what you look for in a quarterback’s personality. He’s modest, prepared and extremely smart—not just on the football field—and Cutcliffe has rarely voiced displeasure with Jones from a mental standpoint.
Physically, too, Jones fits the boxes. Standing at 6-foot-5, he is more than tall enough to play the position, and is always moving his feet both in and out of the pocket. He turned heads in Duke’s 42-35 victory against North Carolina, breaking off two runs of 60-plus yards in which he outran the Tar Heels’ secondary.
Those not as impressed with Jones point to his passing statistics—he should have more passing touchdowns, less interceptions, and a higher completion percentage running Cutcliffe’s west coast offense. However, as NFL scouts will see as they pore through hours of Jones’ film, a lot of those issues stem back to the personnel around him.
Duke registered at least five drops on numerous occasions this season, an issue that was highlighted in its five losses this season. Against Clemson, freshman wideout Jarrett Garner dropped a beautifully thrown deep ball Jones unleashed as he was getting crushed by one of the Tigers’ star defensive linemen, highlighting another issue amongst the receivers outside of the drops: the lack of a reliable deep threat.
The Duke defensive unit has not had a glorious season ranking 82nd in the country allowing 419.4 yards per game. The front-7 has been shredded by opposing ground games, and the OL has a hard time protecting the star QB.
It’s great that Jones is playing ball in the postseason with his team, even though he can still decide to enter the NFL Draft later. After playing against Temple, he might decide to go ahead and join The Shield…where most of the linemen can block and tackle.
Take Temple to cover (-4.5) points in Louisiana.