Belk Bowl Preview: Cincinnati vs Duke

Tomorrow at 6:30 on ESPN, the Cincinnati Bearcats look to make it back to back 10 win seasons when they play the Duke Blue Devils in the Belk Bowl. The Bearcats and Blue Devils have never played before. They have met up on the hardwood. That's when this happened: 

If you didn't know that was coming, you don't know me very well. Duke hasn't played in a bowl game since 1995. They haven't won a bowl game since 1961. 

The teams are at a bit of a difference. Duke's coach David Cutcliffe was speculation of coaching rumors and ultimately stayed at Duke. Butch Jones went to Tennessee. Cincinnati is a relatively big favorite at 9.5. It opened at 11. Not a lot of movement. 

Let's compare the schools. 


Record: 9-3


Record: 6-6


CincinnatiThe Bearcats are led by Brendon Kay. Kay completed 62% of his passes for 966 yards. He threw 6 TDs to 2 INTs. Kay is a bit of a threat on the ground with 230 rushing yards and 2 scores. Kay has started the last 4 games. Cincinnati is 3-1 in those contests. Kay has been largely solid at the QB position. He has avoided the mistakes that really hurt Cincinnati in the middle of the season. 

DukeThe Blue Devils are led by one of the best QBs in their history, Sean Renfree. He is the most accurate passer in Duke history. He owns the top 2 single season records for completion percentage and the all time mark. He's probably going to be the all time leader in completions and QB rating if he has a solid day. Renfree has completed 66.3% of his passes for 2,760 yards, 18 TDs and 8 INTs. He's not a ground threat at all. What he does is pick apart the defense and get the ball to his big time play makers. 

Running Backs 

CincinnatiThe Bearcats are led on the ground by George Winn. His 1,204 yards are the 7th most in a single season at UC. His 12 TDs have him tied for 4th with Isaiah Pead. Winn is averaging over 100 yards a game. He's had a tremendous senior season. When you think about it, his rise started during the bowl game last year. Winn broke a run 69 yards for a score. Since then, he's been busting big runs with regularity. He's proven he can be a top dog. Hell of a senior season. Winn is joined by Ralph David Abernathy IV. RDA IV has 663 combined yards rushing and receiving and 6 TDs. He has 3 of each. Both average 5.3 yards a carry. Both have runs over 50 yards. Cincinnati loves to run the ball. 

DukeWhile UC leans on one guy to do the bulk of the running, Duke has 3. Jela Duncan has the most attempts, yards and TDs of the 3. He has 99 – 516 – 4 TDs. He's putting in a nice 5.2 yard average. Josh Snead has 82 carries for 389 yards and 2 TDs. He's getting 4.7 yards a carry. Juwan Thompson is the 3rd man in the mix with 71 carries for 322 yards and 1 score. All 3 backs have had big numbers on the season. The Blue Devils keep teams off pace with those 3. When they get down to the goal line, Duke turns to Brandon Connette, who has 7 TDs in 36 carries. None of the backs are threats out of the backfield in the passing game. 


CincinnatiCincinnati is led by record breaking tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce owns the UC record for tight end receptions and yards for a single season with 40 and 599. He has a team high 7 touchdowns. Kelce has been the breakout star of the receivers. Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung have both been solid. Thompkins has 32 catches for 523 yards and 2 scores. McClung has 21 catches for 429 yards and 1 score. Cincinnati is missing Damon Julian, who had 377 yards and 4 TDs, due to an ankle injury. This a very solid, if unspectacular group. 

DukeThe Blue Devils have a major advantage at receiver with 2 record breakers hauling in the passes. Jamison Crowder has 70 catches for 1,030 yards and 8 TDs. Conner Vernon has 75 catches for 955 yards and 7 TDs. Vernon has the longest receiving streak in the nation. He's caught a pass in all 47 games he's played. That's an ACC record. He has 27 straight games of multiple receptions. That's 1 off the Duke record.  Vernon leads all receivers in the nation in career receiving yards with 3,630. He's 9 receptions behind Tavon Austin. Crowder and Vernon set a Duke record by becoming the first duo to go over 900 yards. This is leaving Desmond Scott out of the mix. Scott has 61 catches for 606 yards and 2 TDs. The 3 have combined for 206 receptions, the most for any trio in Duke history. Duke is going to be hard to stop in the air. 

Offensive Line


  • Eric Lefeld
  • Austen Bujnoch
  • Dan Sprague
  • Sam Longo 
  • Parker Ehinger

Cincinnati averages 5.2 yards a rush, 8 yards a pass for 6.4 yards a play. Cincinnati has given up 13 sacks on the season. The line has been very solid all year long. 

Duke -

  • Takoby Cofield 
  • Dave Harding
  • Brian Moore
  • Laken Tomlinson
  • Perry Simmons 

Duke averages 3.6 yards a rush, 6.7 yards a pass for 5.3 yards a play. Duke has given up 19 sacks on the season for 147 yards. That's a lot of yards. Duke had 23 sacks for 134 yards during the season. UC gave up 80 yards on sacks. This is a big key to the game. 




  1. Greg Blair 123
  2. Maalik Bomar 75
  3. Dan Giordano 51
  4. Nick Temple 48
  5. Camerron Cheatham 47


  1. Walt Candy 102
  2. Jordon Byas 80
  3. Ross Cockrell 63
  4. Dwayne Norman 57
  5. CJ France 56

Tackles for Loss


  1. Greg Blair 8.5
  2. Dan Giordano 6
  3. Nick Temple 5.5
  4. John Williams 5
  5. Adrian Witty 4.5


  1. Jordon Byas 6
  2. Kenny Anunike 6
  3. Dezmond Johnson 5.5 
  4. Walt Canty 5.5
  5. Jonathan Woodruff 4.5



  1. Dan Giordano 5
  2. Adrian Witty 3
  3. Greg Blair 2.5
  4. Nick Temple 2.5
  5. John Williams 2.5


  1. Kenny Anunike 5
  2. Justin Foxx 3.5
  3. Dezmond Johnson 3
  4. Jonathan Woodruff 2.5
  5. Jordan DeWalt-Ondjio 2.5



  1. Camerron Cheatham 3
  2. Drew Frey 2
  3. Arryn Chenault 2
  4. Deven Drane 2
  5. Greg Blair 2
  6. Maalik Bomar 1
  7. Dominique Battle 1
  8. Chris Williams 1


  1. Ross Cockrell 5
  2. Jordon Byas 2
  3. Walt Canty 1
  4. CJ France 1
  5. Tony Foster 1
  6. Brandon Braxton 1


CincinnatiTony Miliano 15-20 field goals, 45-47 extra points. Long of 47. 

DukeRoss Martin 18-20 field goals, 44-44 extra points. Long of 50


CincinnatiPat O'Donnell 55 punts – 42 average. Long 65. 8 fair catches. 23 inside the 20. 6 touchbacks. 

DukeWill Monday 66 punts – 44.1 average. Long 60. 11 fair catches. 18 inside the 20. 6 touchbacks. 

Punt Returns

Cincinnati -  Anthony McClung 9.9 yards, Danny Milligan 9.4 yards 

DukeLee Butler 17 yards, 1 TD

Kick Returns 

CincinnatiRalph David Abernathy IV 26 yards

DukeLee Butler 20.1 yards

In case you forgot, Cincinnati will be wearing these helmets

Duke ended the year terribly. They lost 4 in a row. They gave up 48, 56, 42 and 52. The only game they didn't get blown out in was the season finale against Miami. 

Duke's defense is absolutely horrible. They give up 35 points a game. They give up 200 yards rushing and 261 yards passing. 

Cincinnati gives up 130 yards rushing and 243 passing. There could be a lot of passing yards in this game. 

My friend Courtney, who is the best, thinks that Duke will throw a couple of picks. 

Duke is averaging 31 minutes of possession a game. Cincinnati's opponents are averaging 31 minutes of possession a game. I have a feeling we will see that happen today. 

If Cincinnati can push the run and stay on the field, they should roll. What they can't do is leave the defense on the field. We've seen what happens when the defense has to stay on the field a long time. They give up the big play. Cough LousvilleGame cough. 

I don't think that will happen though. This should be win number 10. 

Cincinnati 34 Duke 17


About Scott

I write Bearcats Blog and also on Run the Floor.