The 11th edition of Charlotte's favorite bowl game invites cross-state neighbor Duke to square off against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.
Cincinnati secured its fourth share of the Big East title in the last five seasons, further propelling the program towards perennial national prominence, but springboarding head coach Butch Jones to an SEC promotion in Knoxville.
Enter his replacement: Tommy Tuberville. The former Texas Tech coach practically shimmied down an elevator shaft in his cloak-and-dagger escape from Lubbock
, an abrupt exit reminiscent of Fred in “The Flintstones
" opening theme.
Down on Tobacco Road, Duke coach David Cutcliffe takes his Blue Devils to a bowl game for the first time. No stranger to post season success, he won three Independence Bowls and a Cotton Bowl as the head coach at Ole Miss a decade ago.
He's compiled an impressive 4-1 bowl record, but should have his hands full against Cincinnati, who boasted one of the nation’s best scoring defenses in 2012.
With our thanks to the 300+ Belk department stores throughout the southeast, let's reach into the racks and try on all the snappy football action.
-Distance Traveled to Bank of America Stadium:
508 miles for Cincinnati vs. 142 for Duke
-Famous Alumni: Lane Pryce
from "Mad Men" and Mr. Chow
from "The Hangover" are Dukies, but George Clooney, the Time Square Naked Cowboy and the inventors of the Magic 8-Ball and the Easy-Bake Oven are Bearcats.
-You'll Be Surprised To Know:
Though called the Belk Bowl since late 2010, it was previously known as the Queen City, Continental Tire and Meineke Car Care Bowls.
-Brent Musberger says:
"This one’s for all the modern southern apparel!”
Duke coach David Cutcliffe is an offensive guru who groomed both Peyton
Manning to stellar college careers. He oversees a Duke team averaging over 31 points per game this season, and is coming off his most successful season in Durham.
But his dismal 9-31 record in the ACC indicates how much further this team has to go. After an incredible 6-2 start to secure bowl eligibility, the Blue Devils defense packed its things and left, giving up 198 total points while losing its final four games.
Cincinnati would start 5-0 and finish an impressive 4-1, ending the season 9-3 and tied for the best record in the Big East. Though they may have won the conference outright if Coach Jones had put his hands in his pockets
at the end of a tight overtime road loss to Sugar Bowl-bound Louisville.
The Bearcats are one of the top teams in the Big East, while the Blue Devils remain perpetually behind the pack in the ACC. But this bowl game presents an interesting question: is a second-class citizen in the ACC still better than a first-class Big East outfit?
Bearcats interim coach Steve Stripling
believes this team can beat Duke and achieve their goal of a ten-win season. He says his team is focused on the task at hand, despite the fact that he and many other coaches have already accepted jobs to follow Jones to Tennessee. But Stripling is speaking from experience, having subbed in for Jones at Central Michigan in 2009, leading the Chippewas to a GMAC Bowl victory before moving with Jones to Cincinnati.
The Bearcats start injury-prone super senior Brendon McKay under center, who replaced an ineffective Munchie Legaux late in the season. McKay was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility, and was solid when facing conference basement dwellers. But his uninspired performance in a 10-3 loss to Rutgers has me questioning Cincinnati's installation as a touchdown favorite in this one.
Duke and Coach Cutcliffe should be proud of their accomplishments this season. But Cincinnati should effectively contain his offense, and it's hard to picture a porous Duke defense forcing enough stops to win. With McKay under center I don't see more than 30 points for either team, but enough Bearcat defense for a single-digit victory.