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The Chick-fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Duke Blue Devils Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/31/13

Duke Blue Devils (10-3) at Texas A&M Aggies (8-4)

College Football: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 8:00 pm (Georgia Dome)

The Line: Texas A&M Aggies -13 -- Over/Under: 68 See the Latest Odds


Storyline: In what’s likely to be the final act of his collegiate career, Johnny Manziel leads #21 Texas A&M against a 24th-ranked Duke side eager to shed its basketball school image after its first ever ACC conference championship game appearance.

The Breakdown: The Aggies opened 2013 by routing Rice and Sam Houston before narrowly dropping their showdown with top-ranked Alabama 49-42 when the clock simply ran out on Manziel and Texas A&M. The Aggies would rebound by taking their next three before stumbling again at then #24 Auburn after their last gasp was turned away in the closing seconds. A&M followed the loss by taking three straight in decisive fashion, but the brief streak gave way to losses in their final two games, a 34-10 beatdown at #22 LSU and a 28-21 defeat at then #5 Missouri in the season finale.

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The Chick-fil-A Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. Duke Blue Devils Pick-Odds-Prediction 12/31/13

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

After becoming the first ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy last season, there’ not much else for Johnny Manziel to do, aside from win a national championship. It remains to be seen if that’s enough to keep him from the glitz and glamour of the NFL, though, as he’s already a projected first round pick on many pundit’s boards. For now, Manziel’s got at least one more collegiate game to play. The sophomore QB put up some striking numbers again this season, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,732 yards, 33 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, while also leading the Aggies in rushing with 686 yards and 8 touchdowns.  Manziel leads the nation’s 7th-ranked passing game at 350.9 yards per outing and its 5th-ranked scoring offense at 43.6 points per contest. Joining him in the backfield is senior RB Ben Malena (506 YDs, 10 TDs) and sophomore WR Mike Evans (65 Receptions, 1,322 YDs, 12 TDs), the nation’s 9th-ranked receiver and a next-level talent, is Manziel’s top target. The defensive side is where A&M lost some games this season, ranking 89th in the country in scoring defense, allowing 30.9 points a game.Making matters worse, freshman LB Darian Claibone (89 Tackles, 1 INT) , the team's leading tackler, has been suspended from the team.

Duke, meanwhile, had one of college football’s most surprising runs this season, culminating in a school-record 10 wins. . After opening the season at .500 with two consecutive wins followed by two consecutive losses, the Blue Devils rode eight straight victories, including wins over ranked Virginia Tech and Miami teams, all the way to their first ACC Coastal Division title and their first conference championship appearance. The high times were short-lived, however, as Duke would end the season with a 45-7 drubbing at the hands of top-ranked Florida State.

The Blue Devils come in with the FBS’s 62nd-ranked passing game (234.4 YDs), its 59th-ranked rushing game (173.7) and its 50th-ranked scoring offense (31.6). They’re led by the QB duo of juniors Anthony Boone (1,833 YDs, 10 TDs, 11 INTs) and Brandon Connette (1,212, 13 TDs, 6 INTs), who’ve combined to pass for 3,045 yards and 23 touchdowns. Duke also boasts another tandem on the ground in  sophomore Jela Duncan (562 YDs, 3 TDs) and junior Josh Snead (547 YDs, 1 TD), who’ve combined to rush for 1,109 yards and 4 touchdowns. Junior WR Jamison Crowder (96 REC, 1,197 YDs, 7 TDs), the nation’s 15th best receiver, is this unit’s standout. On the defensive side, the Blue Devils field the country’s 47th-ranked scoring defense, allowing 24.7 points per outing and junior LB David Helton, the ACC’s leader with 122 tackles, and junior LB Kelby Brown (101 Tackles) are this unit’s standouts.

Rick’s Pick: The line in this one is currently set at -13 for Texas A&M with a 68-point total. Whether or not this is Manziel’s swan song, the Aggies will get theirs and A&M can’t stop anyone so Duke likely will too. In two years, though, Johnny Football’s had one bad day that I’ve been witness to and that took a perfect effort from LSU, which is unlikely to be duplicated here. Look for the Aggies to cover.

Follow me on Twitter @SCPRick

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