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2012 Belk Bowl Cincinnati Bearcats vs Duke Blue Devils: Start Time, Spread, Free Pick

Sean Renfree Sean Renfree #19 of the Duke Blue Devils drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinals at Stanford Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Palo Alto, California.

The 2012 Belk Bowl will take place on Thursday and we will see the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Duke Blue Devils in Charlotte, North Carolina. The game is scheduled for a 6:30 PM (Eastern) start time and it will be televised live on ESPN. Currently the odds for the game have Cincinnati favored by 9.5 points, while the total sits at 60.5. Check out Sportsbook Spy to find out what side the Public is taking on all today's games.

Free Analysis: A 6-6 season may not be special for most programs, but it is progress at basketball-mad Duke after the football team suffered through 17 consecutive losing years. The Blue Devils, who last earned a bowl bid following the 1994 season, went 37-158 (.190) from 1995-2011, including winless campaigns in 1996, 2000, 2001 and 2006. That's why Duke's 6-2 start eventually earned ACC coach of the year David Cutcliffe a contract extension through the 2018 season. Since earning their all-important sixth win in dramatic fashion against rival North Carolina on Oct. 20, the Blue Devils have struggled, especially on the defensive side of the ball. They've allowed an average of 49.5 points and 593.3 yards during their four-game skid, losing the regular-season finale 52-45 to Miami on Nov. 24. In a conference filled with high-powered offenses like Clemson and Florida State, Duke ranked near the middle in terms of offensive production. The Blue Devils were the seventh-best team in total offense (396.6 ypg) and just a notch above that in scoring (31.3 ppg). There was much less balance for the Blue Devils, who relied more heavily on the pass (3,331 yards) than the run (1,428 yards). Calling the shots from under center is Sean Renfree who turned in a strong season. Renfree completed 66.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,755 yards and had 10 more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (8). Renfree ranked third in the ACC in completion percentage, but fell to fifth in overall passer rating (136.08). Renfree had the benefit of throwing to one of the best receiving tandems in the country. Both Conner Vernon and Jamison Crowder each had stellar seasons on the outside. Vernon (75 receptions, 955 yards, 7 TDs) led the squad in receptions and had four games with at least 100 receiving yards. Crowder (70 receptions, 1,025 yards, 8 TDs) had more big-play ability as he showed in the regular-season finale when he hauled in eight passes for 203 yards and a pair of scores. Both finished in the top-10 in the ACC in receptions and receiving yards.

The Bearcats (9-3) finished in a four-way tie for first place in the Big East - the fourth time in five years they've captured at least a share of the title - but Louisville earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl by virtue of its BCS ranking. Cincinnati's success led to other opportunities for coach Butch Jones, who took over at Tennessee. He's the third straight Bearcats coach - after Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly - to leave after three seasons for a higher-profile job. Cincinnati was one of the best offensive teams in the Big East this season. The Bearcats ranked second in both total offense (430.8 ypg) and were tied for first in scoring (31.0) while ranking in the top-50 in the country in each of those categories. Balance was the key for Cincinnati, as the team rushed for 199.8 yards per game while throwing for 231.0 ypg. The Bearcats' offensive showing is even more impressive considering the squad had to deal with a quarterback change midway through the year. Munchie Legaux began the season as the starter, but struggled leading to the ascension of Brendon Kay who started the last four games. Kay completed 61.9 percent of his pass attempt and threw six touchdowns with a pair of interceptions. Easing the transition between quarterbacks was a steady running game which was powered by George Winn. The Big East's leading rusher (1,204 yards, 12 TDs), Winn was one of just two players in the conference to average more than 100 rushing yards per game. On defense, the Bearcats were in the middle of the Big East in terms of yards allowed (373.8 pg). However, they were able to limit foes on the scoreboard by ranking second in the Big East and 12th nationally in scoring defense (17.2 ppg). The Bearcats were especially tight in the red zone where they allowed a conference-low 14 touchdowns. Cincinnati was one of the better teams in the league in creating pressure by totaling the second-most sacks (30.0).

Free Pick: I will look to the Over in this one. The Bearcat offense has been one of the best in the Big East this year, as they have averaged 430.8 ypg and 31 ppg. Tonight they have a huge chance on increasing those numbers as they face a Duke squad that was horrible on defense down the stretch.  For the year the Blue Devils come in 105th in total defense (462 ypg) and 103rd in points allowed (35 ppg), but in their last 4 games this unit has been horrendous, allowing 49.5 ppg and 593 ypg over that stretch. Offensively, Duke has been a solid group led by Sean Renfree. The Blue Devils have averaged 31.3 ppg on the year and capped their regular season by putting up 45 points on Miami. Duke is thrilled to be in the bowl game and you can bet they will go all out offensively to win it. The Bearcats will score a bunch off of this weak duke defense, while the Devils will get their share of points off a good Cincinnati defense. Duke games have averaged 66 ppg, with 9 of their 12 games putting up 61 or more points.  I expect 65+ in this one. 

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