The No. 21 Texas A&M Aggies will square off against the No. 24 Duke Blue Devils in the 2013 Chick-Fil-A Bowl in what figures to be an exciting matchup featuring two struggling teams looking to right the ship.
Texas A&M (8-4) closed their season on a two-game losing streak. LSU and Missouri bested them in those two games, but the Aggies had been firing on all cylinders in weeks prior. All four of the Aggies' losses came against the four Top 25 teams they faced this season, and they'll be looking to buck that trend against Duke.
The Blue Devils are coming off a blowout loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game. At 10-3, Duke put together one of its best seasons in school history on the gridiron. Their other two losses came back-to-back against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, but they did take down Virginia Tech and Miami—both ranked teams at the time.
This matchup figures to be one of the more exciting games of the bowl season. Be sure to tune in at 8 p.m. ET on New Year's Eve on ESPN, and pay attention to the following storylines while viewing.
Johnny Manziel and Mike Evan's Last Go-Around
Gil Brandt of NFL.com reports (via Will Brinson of CBSSports.com) that Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans will leave Texas A&M to declare for the NFL draft following the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
Manziel will likely be a top 10 selection in the draft (the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3 and the Minnesota Vikings at No. 8 are potential landing spots), while Evans could easily go in the top 15 after Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins is off the board.
With this bowl game being their last go-around in an Aggies uniform, expect the two to go out in style. Manziel and Evans worked well together through the entirety of the season, and Duke will likely fall victim to a few big plays over the top of their secondary.
At 6'5", Evans has the ability to out-jump nearly every defensive back matched against him. Couple that with his deceptive speed to get behind the back of those defenders, and you've got yourself the complete package.
Expect Duke to throw two defenders at him at all times. If he makes plays, then the Aggies' chances of winning go way up.
Manziel's Last Audition for NFL Squads
In what will be Manziel's last audition for the NFL, look for him to exploit the Blue Devils' defense.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe told the Associated Press (via SportingNews.com) just what he expects from last year's Heisman winner:
He's an outstanding quarterback...He's not just an athlete. He beats you in a lot of different ways. Certainly he's got a great receiving corps. His ability to create plays is second to none. In my lengthy career I really haven't seen a player that creates and ad-libs as well.
Even though Duke appears prepared for the challenge, Manziel may still prove too much to contain. If they try to limit him through the air, he'll kill them on the ground. Needless to say, the opposite also holds true.
A poor showing in this bowl game could very well be the difference between Manziel going No. 3 to Jacksonville or later on in the first round. Several teams are in the market for quarterbacks in the first round, but there's no doubting the fact that Manziel would like to hear his name called earlier rather than later.
Can Duke Continue Successful Season?
Duke put together arguably its best season on the football field. Their 10-3 record was highlighted by wins over Virginia Tech and Miami, but losing against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game is currently the low point.
Who wins this one?
While their team peripherals were average across the board (they rank anywhere from No. 47 to No. 62 in terms of passing yards, rushing yards, points allowed and points scored), their consistency as a team is what propelled them to new heights.
Duke is new to this kind of stage, but playing against the Seminoles likely helped them to gain some needed experience.
It'll be interesting to see how they fare against Manziel. Jameis Winston lit them up in the ACC title game, but Manziel is not the same offensive threat. He's still a great quarterback, but there's a reason Winston won the Heisman this year and Manziel didn't.
Containing Manziel is the key. If they can do that, they'll win the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.