2023 Birmingham Bowl – Troy vs Duke

2023 Birmingham Bowl – Troy vs Duke

posted December 17


The Game

It’s time to head down to THE MAGIC CITY for a battle between the Troy Trojans and the Duke Blue Devils. The Trojans hit BACK-TO-BACK JACKS and won the Sun Belt for the 2nd consecutive season. They’ve booked a cumulative record of 23-4 (!) since the start of the 2022 season and have been one of the deadliest Group of Five teams in the country over that time horizon. The Blue Devils (7-5) started like a HOUSAFIRE beating Clemson in their opener and starting the campaign at 4-0 but the season when GLUG GLUG GLUG once starting QB Riley Leonard was injured.

The Details

Troy -7.5 Duke (44.5)


“Vegas” Implied Projected Score: Troy 26 Duke 18.5

Troy offense vs Duke defense

The Trojans have a very balanced offense and solid players everywhere you need them. QB Gunnar Watson bounced back from a sketchy 2022 season (14-12 TD to INT) and has posted a fantastic 27-5 ratio so far in 2023. Kimani Vidal is an absolute BEAST at RB (1,582, 14 TD) and he’s got a legit shot to go over 1,700 yards for the season in this game. The WR group is very deep as four doods have over 400 receiving yards and Chris Lewis is a devastating deep threat (23.0). Duke’s season-long defensive stats don’t look that bad (#45 total defense, #21 scoring defense) but they didn’t play nearly as well in the 2nd half of the season. They allowed 9.8 PPG in their first six games but 29.7 (!) PPG in their final six contests. The Blue Devils will be without a few key pieces on defense due to opt-outs/transfer portal/quitting on their team so things don’t look great heading into a tough match-up with Troy.

Duke offense vs Troy defense

The Blue Devils offense struggled without QB Riley Leonard in the lineup although he didn’t put up the best numbers when he was available (58%, 3-3 TD to INT, 4 rush TD). Those numbers, even after considering injury, pale in comparison to what he was able to accomplish last season. The Blue Devils will be rolling with backup QB Grayson Loftis who hasn’t been horrible (54%, 8-3 TD to INT) but he’s certainly no Riley Leonard with his legs. The Blue Devils will be without starting RB Jordan Waters (753, 12 TD) and they don’t do much thru the air. That’s bad news when playing a nasty Troy defense that doesn’t give up much on the ground (#14 run D) or via the THROW GAME (#32 pass efficiency D). Star OL Graham Barton may eventually decide to pass on this game and that would make things even worse.

Trends, Intangibles and More!

The Trojans will be without their excellent HC Jon Sumrall who’s off to coach the Tulane Green Wave…..Nice grab for the folks down in New Orleans!…..Duke lost their HC Mike Elko (Texas A&M) who did a great job with the Blue Devils in the short time he was with the program….Troy has won FIVE (!) bowl games in a row and they haven’t lost in bowl season since the 2009 GMAC Bowl (Jan 6, 2010) when they fell to FIRE UP CHIPS and star QB Dan LeFevour in a 2-OT classic……Duke is also on a bit of a BOWL HEATER as they’ve won four in a row dating back to the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl.


We definitely prefer the favorite is this spot as they’re the better team playing with close to the same roster that got them here. The price isn’t cheap tho so we haven’t punched a ticket yet. We might do it closer to game day as we don’t see the line dropping to -7, nor do we anticipate seeing a -10, so there’s no immediate rush at press time.


LEAN Troy team total over 26.5 (current market price at many shops including Pinnacle)

‘Official play’ implies this pick is one of our favorites of the week (perceived value, match-up, coaching, trends, etc.). We’re currently playing these picks for the same amount as the leans but it’s up to you how you want to manage your bankroll. Please see the Week in Review posts for more detail.

‘Lean’ implies we are placing a wager on the game.

‘No leanage’ implies we won’t have any action on the game.

Team totalsWe list the implied number based on the point spread and total when our analysis is posted. If a team total ends up being an official play we will post a widely available number at the time of pick release.