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1. Making its first bowl appearance in 17 years, Duke does not have to make a long trip as the Blue Devils meet Cincinnati in Charlotte, N.C., less than three hours from their campus in Durham. Led by ACC Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe and despite the excitement of heading to its first bowl game since 1995, Duke is on a four-game losing streak that has seen the Blue Devils allow 49.5 points during that span.
2. For the third time since 2006, Cincinnati goes into its postseason game without the coach that led the Bearcats during the season. After winning or sharing its fourth Big East Conference championship in the past five years, Cincinnati lost third-year coach Butch Jones on Dec. 7 to Tennessee, but 36 hours later hired former Texas Tech, Auburn, and Mississippi coach Tommy Tuberville. Offensive line coach Steve Stripling will coach the Bearcats in the bowl game.
3. With constant conference realignment in the air, Cincinnati has made no secret is would like to be in the ACC, which offered a spot to Louisville earlier this month. And the Bearcats would like to make a statement in the Belk Bowl, taking on Duke from the ACC. Cincinnati is making its 14th bowl appearance and sixth in the last seven years. In September, the Bearcats rallied to beat Virginia Tech in Washington D.C., knocking the Hokies out of the Top 25.
It’s the priority, as Duke’s rushing defense is No. 102 in the country, allowing almost 200 rushing yards per game (199.83) -- and Cincinnati is averaging 199.75 on the ground. Bearcats running back George Winn leads the team and the Big East with 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. In each of Duke’s four losses to end the regular season, the Blue Devils allowed an average of 294.5 rushing yards, and Georgia Tech and Clemson both surpassing 300.
Cincinnati is buoyed by a strong rushing attack that was second in the Big East, averaging 199.8 ypg. The passing game was not nearly as efficient but a change at quarterback made that unit stronger down the stretch as Brendon Kay replaced Munchie Legaux with five games left. While the offense is not explosive, the Bearcats should have success against a Duke defense that is 104th overall and 103rd in scoring. The Blue Devils offense will have to perform at a high level to stay in this one and while they struggled down the stretch, rumor has it that some new wrinkles have been added for this game. Cincinnati is 41st in total defense but 12th in scoring defense thanks to an opportunistic defense that had 24 takeaways. Duke gave it up only 17 times though. The Bearcats allowed 17 points or less in each of their last four games and seven of 12 on the season.
Duke is not a good defensive team but they are more excited to be here than the Bearcats and this win could change the football program. With that in mind, I don't see anyway that Duke won't fight until the bitter end to get this win.
Kevin Gemmell: The Holiday Bowl has a tradition of being a high-scoring affair, though the last couple of years it's been down offensively. This year's edition should right that. Both offenses are great. But I think the fact that UCLA -- specifically Anthony Barr, Datone Jones and Co. -- can get to Nick Florence will be the difference. It's time to stop calling UCLA young on offense, because 13 games and a division title later, they are a veteran group. They'll go blow for blow with Baylor and make the stops when they have to on defense. UCLA 48, Baylor 41.
Ted Miller: Kevin's take is about mine. I see a game with plenty of momentum swings that will extend into the fourth quarter. I feel strongly that turnovers will be key because wasted possessions in what should be a high-scoring game could prove critical. I like the Bruins chances to pressure Florence more than he's accustomed to, but the first order of business is slowing down resurgent Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. If he can gash the Bruins, it could be a long night. Still, I think UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin hoists the game MVP trophy in a Bruins win. UCLA 42, Baylor 40.
Baylor: 13-5 ATS off BB games gaining 525+ total yards
UCLA: 4-16 ATS away playing with rest
Bears are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a S.U. win.
Bears are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a ATS win.
Bears are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
Bears are 4-0 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Bears are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Bears are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
Bears are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
Bears are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Bears are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
Bears are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
Bears are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 neutral site games.
Bruins are 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
Bruins are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games on grass.
Bruins are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games following a S.U. loss.
Bruins are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
Bruins are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games in December.
Bruins are 4-11 ATS in their last 15 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 Thursday games.
Bruins are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a ATS win.
Jim Mora has won nine games in his first year as UCLA head coach and could notch a 10th win in this one. He’s the first UCLA head coach to win as many as nine games in his first year since UCLA coaching legend Terry Donahue in 1976, who went 9-2-1.
No UCLA coach has ever won 10 games in his first season.