The 2022 Military Bowl will feature Duke and UCF on Wednesday, December 28th. This is the first-ever meeting for these two teams that will face off in Annapolis this week. After taking two years off, the Blue Devils will take on the Golden Knights, both teams being carried by their offenses this season. Let’s take a look at how the 8-4 Blue Devils match up against the 9-4 UCF Knights in the 2022 Military Bowl.
2022 Military Bowl Preview
Date: December 28, 2022
Time: 2:00 PM ET
Where: Annapolis, Maryland
Military Bowl History
In 2010, the game was renamed the Military Bowl from the EagleBank Bowl. The first EagleBank Bowl was held in 2008 between Wake Forest and Navy. With Wake Forest taking the contest 29-19. In the newly named Military Bowl in 2010, Maryland beat East Carolina 51-20 in a lopsided contest. The bowl game would go on to be rather close between the two competing teams over the next six years, however, in 2017 Navy beat Virginia 49-7 in front of a sold-out crowd. A year later in 2018, the Military Bowl became aligned with the ACC and the American Atheltic Conference. Finally, North Carolina walloped Temple 55-13 in 2019 before the game took a two-year hiatus.
What to Watch for From Duke
First-year head coach Mike Elko has taken Duke to its first winning season since 2018. The 2022 ACC Coach of the Year won eight games behind a very good Blue Devils offense. Duke averaged 33 points per game this season in addition to averaging 421 yards of total offense. This was good for 40th in the nation this season. Offensive Coordinator, Kevin Johns, and second-year quarterback Riley Leonard have been a great pair in 2022. After appearing in only six games as a freshman in 2021, Leonard took over QB1 duties in 2022. Leonard has passed for 2,794 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only six interceptions this season. The sophomore also has a 63.5 completion percentage.
In addition to the Blue Devils’ success through the air, Johns has done a good job keeping the offense balanced. Not only is Leonard controlling the game through the air, but he is also Duke’s leading rusher with 636 rushing yards and an additional 11 touchdowns.
The Duke offense didn’t win these eight games alone, however. In addition to a stellar offensive performance for most of the year, the rush defense was stout as well. The Blue Devils are ranked 26th overall in rushing defense after the regular season. This is a team that is allowing less than one rushing touchdown per game. That is good for the best in the ACC.
What to Watch for From UCF
All eyes will be on the quarterback position for UCF. Starter John Rhys Plumlee was hindered by a hamstring injury for the better part of the back end of the regular season. This was very evident in the conference championship loss against Tulane. Plumlee was the leading rusher for UCF this season with 840 rushing yards on the year. Further, in the first nine games of the season, the Ole Miss transfer only tallied under 10 rushing attempts two times. However, in the last three games, which resulted in two losses, the signal caller had two, eight, and nine rushing attempts. Tallying negative yardage against Tulane. If he isn’t 100% look for freshman Thomas Castellanos to get some reps with backup Mikey Keene already gone to Fresno State.
This will put a lot of pressure on running backs Isaiah Bowser and R.J. Harvey. The two have combined for 1,527 rushing yards this season. Bowser has led the way with 14 rushing touchdowns, with Harvey tallying five of his own. Both are more than capable of picking up the load, however, we already outlined the abilities of the Duke rushing defense. This will be a tough battle all game.
The UCF defense has been hot and cold all season long. The secondary ranks 73rd in passing yards allowed this season but held strong against the run through the first 10 games of the season. In those first 10 games, the Golden Knights surrendered more than 200 rushing yards one time. It occurred in the second game of the season against Louisville. Then, the final three games were a different story. Navy, South Florida, and Tulane all rushed for more than 240 yards. The most the UCF defense allowed per game all season. This defense will be interesting to watch against a very balanced Blue Devils offense.