76 Birmingham Bowl – Troy vs Duke

76 Birmingham Bowl – Troy vs Duke

Troy Vs. Duke on Saturday December 23, 2023 for the 76 Birmingham Bowl Bragging rights

76 Birmingham Bowl
Troy vs Duke
Birmingham, AL
12/23/2023 – 12:00 PM EST

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Opt Outs, Transfers, and Coaching Changes

Troy:

  • LB Jayden McDonald (75 tkl, 1 sk, 1 pd – led team in tackles)
  • Head coach Jon Sumrall has been hired at Tulane; DC Greg Gasparato will be the interim.

Duke:

  • QB Riley Leonard (57.6%, 1,102 yds, 3/3 TD/INT; 58 car, 352 yds, 4 TD)
    RB Jordan Waters (142 car, 753 yds, 12 TD – all led team)
  • EDGE R.J. Oben (17 tkl, 5 sk – led team in sk)
  • DT Aeneas Peebles (40 tkl, 4 sk, 2 pd, 1 FR)
  • LB Dorian Mausi (61 tkl, 0.5 sk, 2 pd, 1 INT)
  • DB Brandon Johnson (56 tkl, 2 sk, 4 pd)
  • S Jaylen Stinson (82 tkl, 1 sk, 5 pd, 1 INT – led team in passes defended; second in tkl)
  • Mike Elko now head coach at Texas A&M. Associate head coach Trooper Taylor will be the interim.

2023 Birmingham Bowl Odds and Total
Duke vs Troy Predictions

Birmingham, AL
12/23/2023 – 12:00 PM EST

Odds: -7.5 Troy, Total: 44.5

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On Saturday, December 12, 2023, the Duke Blue Devils and Troy Trojans will come together to play at noon (12 EST) in the Birmingham Bowl at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama.

Troy is favored by 7.5 points against the Blue Devils after a wonderful 11-2 season in the Sun Belt that ultimately ended with the Trojans atop their conference for a second consecutive year. Troy will look to facilitate their offense behind their Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year running back Kimani Vidal, who ran for more than 1,500 yards this season. However, the Trojans will be without their coach and best defensive player in this one as Jon Sumrall is taking his coaching talents to Tulane and Jayden McDonald is not playing.

The story on the other side of the ball also begins with Duke’s interim head coach, Trooper Taylor, who has taken over for the soon-to-be coach of Texas A&M, Mike Elko. However, that’s not the only loss Duke has to bear for this matchup as their all-ACC honorable mention quarterback, Riley Leonard, entered the transfer portal. However, Grayson Loftis (the Duke starter) has been playing in the latter half of the season, so he should be fairly integrated despite losing most of his starts.

The line in this one opened up at 6.5 and nearly immediately shot up to 7.5, which is where it sits right now. There was a slight movement towards 8, but the line jumped right back to 7.5. This indicates there was some value in grabbing the Trojans at less than a touchdown and grabbing the Blue Devils at 8, but the question becomes can Troy still cover at larger than a touchdown?

As offenses, both of these teams operate in very similar matters. Troy averaged 47.4% run plays per game (as opposed to passing plays), whereas Duke averaged 47.5% of plays on the ground. Both teams also gathered more than 4.5 yards per carry, with Duke actually outgaining the Trojans, despite Troy’s running back winning the offensive player of the year in the Sun Belt.

Given the fact that both teams like to run the ball, and they each do so with some success, we need to take a look at how they fare defensively against the run. The Blue Devils allowed 3.9 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns, while the Trojans allowed only 3.1 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns. However, that number jumps up to 3.9 yards per carry against Power 5 conference teams, which is exactly what Duke is (keep in mind that was only one game against KSU where Troy lost 42-13).

The main thing plaguing Duke here is the transfer portal has eaten up their defensive line, in addition to their offense. Aeneas Peebles, RJ Oben, and Dorian Mausi will not be playing in this one, likely giving Vidal a lot of leeway in this Birmingham Bowl. However, they have been a much better team against non-Power 5 opponents, whereas Troy is a far worse team against Power 5 opponents.

There are a lot of question marks regarding this Duke team with the interim coach, a quarterback entering the transfer portal, and another 5 major defensive players that will be missing this one. However, I am not sure Troy will be able to cover more than a touchdown given their season’s opponent pool. Our partner BetStamp is showing we can get Duke +7.5 at -109 with BetRivers and that is the play I am going to make.

The Action Network indicates some large sharp money is on the Duke Blue Devils, and with so much adversity for this team with the transfer portal, I think they surprise some people and keep it close. Favorites have historically been the side to go with at 9-5-2 in this Bowl with the last 4 out of 5 going to the non-Power 5 opponent. With the transfers and players missing I also like the under at 45 – unders are 11-3-1 all-time in this bowl as well.

Should be a fun one despite the question marks all over the field.

 

This is an article written by DJ Bianco

DJ Bianco Author for Happy Hour Sports at the Colosseum in Rome

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