BELK BOWL STORYLINES
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.
TV: ESPN, 6:30 p.m. ET. LINE: Cincinnati -7
ABOUT CINCINNATI (9-3, 5-2 Big East): Senior Brendon Kay took over for the versatile, but erratic Munchie Legaux at quarterback late in the season and led the Bearcats to three wins in four games. Kay is completing almost 62 percent of his passes for 966 yards and six touchdowns with only two interceptions. Kay also rushed for 230 yards and a pair of scores. Legaux accounted for 2,051 yards of offense and 17 touchdowns to go along with nine interceptions. Tight end Travis Kelce, a first team All-Big East performer is Cincinnati's top receiver with 40 catches for 599 yards and seven touchdowns. Second team All-Big East tailback George Winn was second in the league with 1,204 yards rushing. Winn had 12 touchdowns and five 100-yard games. The Bearcats average 430.8 yards and 31 points, while allowing only 13 sacks in 12 games. Cincinnati is allowing only 17.2 points, second in the Big East.
ABOUT DUKE (6-6, 3-5 ACC): The Blue Devils raced to a 6-2 start, highlighted by wins over North Carolina and Virginia before the ACC powers got them at the end of the season. Quarterback Sean Renfree has passed for 2,755 yards and 18 touchdowns while throwing only eight interceptions and Duke is the only FBS team in the nation to have three receivers catch more than 60 passes. Second team All-ACC performer Conner Vernon leads Duke with 75 receptions for 955 yards and seven touchdowns, while honorable mention all-ACC pick Jamison Crowder caught 70 for 1,025 yards and eight scores. Desmond Scott hauled in 61 receptions for 606 yards and two touchdowns. Duke averages 31.3 points and 396.6 yards total offense while allowing 35 points and 462.1 yards. Ross Martin, the honorable mention all-league kicker for the Blue Devils, is 18-for-20 in field goals, including 6-for-6 from beyond 40 yards.
PREDICTION: Cincinnati 34, Duke 27