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Duke Blue Devils to Take On the Troy Trojans in the Birmingham Bowl

On Saturday the 23rd the Birmingham Bowl will be the site of the Sun Belt Champion Troy Trojans at 11-2 to battle with the 7-5 Duke Blue Devils that finished 7-5 on the season. While both teams did make a bowl game they have trended in different directions. Troy is riding high on a 10-game win streak and outscored their opponents by 182 points. For Duke, while they did end the season with a win, they have been losing players through the transfer portal and their coach Mike Elko is currently the head coach at Texas A&M. But when it comes down to it, the game is played on the field and all the outside noise and distractions fall by the wayside. Let's dive in and see who has the edge.

Broadcast info

Date: Saturday, December 23rd, 2023

Time: Noon EST

Where: Protective Stadium, Birmingham, Alabama


Calling: Cole Cubelic, Tom Hart, Taylor Davis

Radio: ESPN Radio (Check Local Listings)

Tale of the Tape: Troy Trojans vs. Duke Blue Devils


Gunnar Watson vs Grayson Loftis. The quarterback play is going to be key. With Duke losing starting quarterback Riley Leonard to the transfer portal (signed with Notre Dame), the Blue Devils will turn to Loftis to lead the team. In limited snaps this season, he has 823 yards and eight touchdowns. The freshman has shown promise in his opportunities showing a solid arm and the ability to throw to all areas of the field. The Trojans of Troy will have Gunnar Watson under center. The senior will look to put a bow on his best overall season with a win in the bowl game against a Power 5 team. Watson has already thrown for career-highs in yardage and touchdowns as he helped lead the team this season. He's shown this season a drive to push the ball downfield with 2100 yards this season coming on plays 10+ yards downfield. If Loftis can step up on one of the biggest stages of his young career this matchup will be a fun one to watch.

Advantage - Troy. Experience does matter and Watson has it, he has put together a great season with the Trojans and should put a nice exclamation point on it in the game.

Running Backs

Kimani Vidal vs TBD. This area has been a hard hit for the Blue Devils. Leading rusher Jordan Waters has entered the transfer portal and there is a possibility that Jaquez Moore, the team's second-leading rusher could play. He entered the portal also, but later withdrew his name. Should Moore get the nod, take note as he has a good combination of speed and power as a runner. He shows a good ability to be the workhorse back for a team and has the vision and patience to let plays develop. With Vidal, Troy has the second-leading rusher in the entire country. He's a dynamic playmaker who runs with a force few can match. He's got good hands and keeps the ball secure (seven fumbles in his four-year career). This season alone he ran for 990 yards after contact.

Advantage - Troy. I like both runners but Vidal just looks like a special breed on his runs.


Tre Freeman vs Javon Solomon. Another area that hit the Blue Devils hard. The team's top two leaders in sacks have entered the transfer portal and will not be present for the bowl game. Adding to the 10 names in the portal, DeWayne Carter is expected not to play as he prepares for the Senior Bowl and the NFL Draft. Freeman leads the Blue Devils in tackles, he's a physical tackler and tracks the ball well to read and react to where the ball carrier is going. He shows a good football IQ knowing good angles to take with his pursuit and finishes his tackles well. For Troy, Solomon has done a bit of everything for the defense, he's sixth on the team in tackles but leads in sacks and has also forced three fumbles. He shows good pursuit sideline to sideline and covers a lot of ground to make plays.

Advantage - Troy. The Blue Devils have been hit hard and Troy has a solid defensive unit at all three levels.

Prediction and final score

Troy wins by three scores. While this game will be close early, Troy pulls away to win its second straight bowl game. Duke has a lot of questions to answer and holes to fill after being struck with transfer portal departures.

Final Score: Troy 35-Duke 17


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