Chick-fil-A Bowl preview: Duke vs. Texas A&M

12/30/13 in NCAAF   |   BlakeLovell   |   86 respect

Nov 30, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) rolls out against the Missouri Tigers during the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY SportsThe 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl kicks off on December 31 at 8 PM ET on ESPN. The game will feature two teams in the Top 25, as #21 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4) goes toe to toe with #24 Duke (10-3, 6-2).

Let's take a look at what to watch for when these two teams square off at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta:

Duke Players to Watch:

David Helton, LB - The junior linebacker has the difficult task of trying to help this Blue Devil defense contain the Johnny Manziel and the high-powered A&M attack. Helton had 122 tackles to lead the ACC this season, and he'll need to be dominant in this one in order to slow down Manziel. Luckily for the Blue Devils, their most recent game came against another offensive juggernaut in Florida State, so Helton and company have seen a similar offense in action.

Jamison Crowder, WR - Crowder is without question the biggest playmaker on this Duke team. The 5'9" junior wide receiver has made huge plays all year long, and if David Cutcliffe's team wants to hang around in this game, Crowder will need to have that same kind of impact. He went over 120 yards receiving six times during the regular season, so expect him to have a huge night since this one figures to be a high-scoring affair.

Texas A&M Players to Watch:

Johnny Manziel, QB - I mean, obviously, right? Since this will likely be Manziel's final game as a college player, we should prepare to see him at his best. The former Heisman winner has seen much tougher defenses than the one they'll see on Tuesday in Atlanta, so it shouldn't surprise anyone if the Aggies put up video game numbers on offense in this game.

Mike Evans, WR - Manziel's top target is a threat to score on every play. As a 6'5" receiver, Evans has the ability to go up and make plays that other receivers can't. If Duke doesn't know where he is at all times, the Manziel to Evans combination will rip them apart. With this duo likely taking the field for the final time as a member of the Aggies, they will want to make this a memorable performance.

Duke Keys to Victory:

Force turnovers. Because honestly, that's the only way Duke stands a chance to win this game. They will need to constantly show Manziel different looks in an effort to take the ball away. If they let him go up and down the field effortlessly, this could get ugly.

Find your playmakers. Texas A&M's defense is not very good. That's great news for Duke since they will have to score a lot of points here. If the offensive line can protect the quarterback, it should be able to give Crowder and the rest of the crop of wide receivers a chance to make a big play downfield.

Texas A&M Keys to Victory:

Get early stops. The Aggie defense needs to build up a little momentum early. Duke has an up-tempo offense that could give them fits, so it's important for Texas A&M to find some kind of rhythm quickly in order to keep the Blue Devil offense from gaining any type of confidence.

Keep it simple. There's no reason to get fancy just because it's probably the last game for Manziel in an Aggie uniform. If they use the same type of offensive formula they've used all season long, the Aggies should take care of business.


It's hard to see Manziel going out with anything other than a victory. His team will be geared up and ready to go, and he will be looking to put on one of the best performances of his career. Duke has had a historic season, and by no means should A&M overlook them. But, this is a great matchup for the Aggies, and I see them walking out of Atlanta with their third straight bowl victory.

Texas A&M 49, Duke 31

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