Previewing the Military Bowl presented by Peraton: UCF vs. Duke
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This is the preview for the Military Bowl presented by Peraton
Date: Wednesday, December 28, 2:00 p.m. ET
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium (Annapolis, MD)
Betting splits: 85% of handle, 54% of bets on Duke -3
UCF had a shot to be playing in a New Year’s Six game at the Cotton Bowl, but they were not able to pull off the sweep in the AAC Championship Game at Tulane. Instead, the Knights will settle for a spot in the Military Bowl to face Duke, who had one of the best turnarounds in FBS from 3-9 to 8-4 under first-year head coach and ACC Coach of the Year Mike Elko.
Gus Malzahn’s Knights, like many other teams in the postseason, have to do some roster shuffling. QB John Rhys Plumlee (2404 passing yards, 14 passing TDs, 841 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs) commands the nation’s No. 7 rushing offense, but he is questionable to play here with a leg injury. Backup Mikey Keene is also in the transfer portal, so third-string freshman Thomas Castellanos could see most of the time at quarterback. Second-leading receiver Ryan O’Keefe (725 receiving yards, 5 TDs, 222 rushing yards) is also in the portal. Other UCF starters in the portal include third-leading tackler LB Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste (52 tackles) and CB Davonte Brown (30 tackles, 2 INT). The Knights will also have a new play-caller on defense as Addison Williams takes over as defensive coordinator for the departing Travis Williams, who left for Arkansas.
Duke has not had any opt-outs and has 15 seniors that have finally reached their goal of going to a bowl game. From 2021 to 2022, Duke went from 102nd nationally to 34th in scoring offense, and 127th to 36th in scoring defense. They rank 11th nationally in takeaways, averaging two per game, and sixth nationally in offensive giveaways, only turning the ball over 0.6 times per game. The Blue Devils are led by QB Riley Leonard who had a 20-6 ratio and also led the team in rushing (635 yards and 11 TDs).
Malzahn is 3-5 for his career in bowl games. Elko is a head coach for the first time in a bowl game but went 5-3 in his career as a defensive coordinator at Bowling Green, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M.
With the notable opt-outs and the obvious motivational edge for Duke, the line has flipped from UCF being a 2.5-point favorite to Duke becoming the three-point favorite. The total has ticked up slightly from 61 to 62/62.5. This means the market believes Plumlee, who had plenty of opportunities to enter the portal but elected to return, will be able to go here. —Wes Reynolds
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