College football guru Phil Steele has come out with four bold predictions for the non-BCS bowl games.
No. 1 on his list? Duke will upset Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.
Steele argues that Duke has better skill players on offense, and the Blue Devils will be able to take advantage of a Cincinnati pass defense that has looked so-so at times this season. He also believes the Duke defense will be able to play man coverage and stack the box to slow down the Cincinnati offense and George Winn.
I agree that the best way for Duke to attack Cincinnati is to go right after the pass defense. But Steele fails to mention that Cincinnati is very active on the defensive front, finishing second in the Big East with 31 sacks and 74 tackles for loss. The Bearcats' strength is in their front seven, so if they are able to get to Sean Renfree, he won't be able to pick apart the Cincinnati secondary.
Further, the Duke defense was terrible during its four-game slide to end the season, giving up an average of 49.5 points per game in those losses. While I realize Cincinnati is not Florida State and Clemson, the Bearcats have been able to win games with teams stacking the box and trying to slow down Winn. The big X factor to me is how Cincinnati responds with interim coach Steve Stripling in charge. There is simply no way to predict that, but by all accounts, players seem fired up to prove people they will be just fine without Butch Jones.
You see where I'm going with this. Cincinnati should win.
There is one other bold prediction that I disagree with on this list. Steele says the Las Vegas Bowl between Boise State and Washington will be the lowest-scoring game. Put me down for this prediction: Rutgers versus Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl will be the lowest scoring non-BCS game.