On Saturday (12/23/23), the Troy Trojans face the Duke Blue Devils in the Birmingham Bowl. In this article, find the latest betting odds for the game and a full preview of the matchup. In addition, find our Troy vs. Duke best bet which is Troy -7.5.
Troy Trojans vs. Duke Blue Devils Prediction
As is increasingly the case in the modern transfer portal era, any discussion about a bowl game has to start with who’s actually playing. Troy is almost entirely intact for this game, save for the departure of head coach Jon Sumrall who took the job at Tulane. Defensive coordinator Greg Gasparto will serve as the interim coach for the bowl game.
Duke, on the other hand, has had a very eventful few weeks. Former head coach Mike Elko was hired as the new coach at Texas A&M, and former associate head coach and running backs coach Trooper Taylor will be the interim coach. Former Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will be the new head coach starting next year.
Duke also has a ton of opt outs and portal news. Quarterback Riley Leonard is transferring to Notre Dame, although he hasn’t played since Week 9. Running back Jordan Waters (753 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns) is in the portal along with a handful of key starters on defense. Tackle Graham Barton and defensive lineman DeWayne Carter accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl and are expected to miss.
Troy should be fired up for an opportunity to face a depleted Duke team, especially since they’ll likely have a homefield atmosphere in Birmingham, which is a drive of just a couple hours from their campus. The defense that allowed just 17.2 points per game (10th) is laregely intact while quarterback Gunnar Watson and running back Kimani Vidal will play.
With so much changing on the Duke side of the ball, the only play I can truly endorse here is Troy to cover the spread. At -7.5, we’re on the wrong side of a key number, making it more tricky. The best way to play this game is to use the Troy Moneyline as a parlay piece with another favorite you like, but if you’re making a bet on the spread here, it would be Troy or pass.
Troy vs. Duke Prediction: Troy -7.5
Troy vs. Duke Best Odds
Troy is favored by 7.5 points here, and that line has climbed since the odds opened for this game. Troy opened as 4.5-point favorites here. The over/under sits at 44.5 points and has seen little movement. With the current odds at the time of writing, we have an implied score of around 26-19 in favor of Troy.
Troy vs. Duke Key Matchups
While there have been a number of opt outs and portal entrants on the Duke side, we’ll get another look at freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis, who could be the starter next season. Meanwhile, Troy has a handful of top talents to be excited about, including star running back Kimani Vidal.
Grayson Loftis Vs. Troy’s Pass Defense
With Riley Leonard and Henry Belin IV spending most of the season injured, Loftis became the starter for Duke down the stretch. He experienced the typical freshman growing pains, but the former three-star recruit showed a lot, particularly in his 3-touchdown effort in a double overtime loss to Drake Maye and North Carolina.
This game will present plenty of challenges for Loftis, though, as Troy has one of the best pass defenses in the country. They’re top 30 in EPA per pass allowed and PFF’s team coverage grades. With leading receiver Jalon Calhoun also in the portal, this will be an uphill battle for Lofits and the passing offense.
Grayson Loftis : 16/28 for 189 yards, 3 TD passes, 1 TD run & a 71.7 QBR (Incomplete pass on the 2-point conversion to end the game. 2nd career CFB start) pic.twitter.com/JIDtcOR2Cx
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) November 12, 2023
Kimani Vidal Vs. Duke’s Run Defense
It was a phenomenal season for Troy’s junior running back Kimani Vidal, who racked up 1,582 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. In the Sun Belt Championship win over Appalachian State, he had a whopping 233 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He was named a Third Team All-American and was the first Trojan to earn AP All-American honors since 2000.
Duke was especially hit hard on the defensive line in the portal with defensive tackle Aeneas Peebles, edge RJ Oben, and linebacker Dorian Mausi on their way out. The Blue Devils were still top 30 in EPA per rush allowed, but this will be a worse version of the Duke run defense than we’ve seen all season, and Vidal should take advantage with another huge game.
Why not break some more records?
— Troy Trojans Football 8x⚔️ (@TroyTrojansFB) December 3, 2023
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