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Chick-fil-A Bowl: Preview, Predictions, TV info

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

What: Chick-fil-A Bowl

Who: Duke (10-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4 SEC)

When: Tuesday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Where: Georgia Dome (71,250), Atlanta, Ga.

Opening Line: Texas A&M -12.5

What matters: As basically no one outside of College Station believes Johnny Manziel will return for another year of NCAA headaches and media scrutiny, the matchup with the Blue Devils promises college football fans their last glimpse of the former Heisman Trophy winner in an Aggie uniform. At a glance, the Devils would appear to offer Manziel plenty of opportunities for his trademark fireworks -- they rank a middling 62nd in the FBS in yards allowed per-play, 45th in scoring defense -- but David Cutcliffe's team has pulled off plenty of late-game fireworks of its own on its way to the first 10-win season in school history.

Who matters: Not many teams have the personnel to match up with a nightmare like potential Biletnikoff winner Mike Evans, but the Devils have two reasons for optimism. One is a pair of first-team All-ACC performers in the secondary in corner Ross Cockrell and safety Jeremy Cash; the second was Manziel's erratic performances to end the season at both LSU and Missouri. If Johnny Football is on his game, there seems little chance Duke can keep pace, but that's not guaranteed.

Matchup question: The Aggies' rush defense isn't so much an Achilles heel as it is an Achilles foot, an Achilles leg, an Achilles everything-below-the-waist that finished the year an abject 112th in yards per-carry allowed, nestled between FIU and Purdue. The Blue Devils are no rushing juggernaut (62nd in FBS rushing), but against this defense, can their tailback-by-committee approach and running QB threat Brandon Connette do enough to keep Manziel and Co. off the field and the game tight?

Prediction: No team has been any better coached in 2013 than Duke, but few teams in a game of this stature would face as deep a raw talent deficit as the Devils will against A&M. Expect Cutcliffe's coaching (and A&M's rush defense) to keep it close for a half; also expect A&M's far greater depth to make it not close by game's end. Texas A&M 42, Duke 24.

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