Duke football, in a bowl for first time in four years, will face UCF in Military Bowl

Kaitlin McKeown/kmckeown@newsobserver.com

Duke’s return to college football’s bowl season comes in an event that’s new to the Blue Devils.

After going 8-4 in the regular season to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2018, Duke will play the University of Central Florida in the Military Bowl at Annapolis, Maryland, on Dec. 28 at 2 p.m.

This will be Duke’s first appearance in the Military Bowl and its first game with UCF (9-4), which lost 45-28 at Tulane in the American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday.

Since beating Temple, 56-27, in the 2018 Independence Bowl, the Blue Devils suffered through three consecutive losing seasons. That included going 1-17 in ACC play during the 2020 and 2021 seasons while losing 13 league games in succession.

That misery ended when Mike Elko took over as head coach following David Cutcliffe’s departure in November 2021. Cutcliffe had led Duke to six bowl games over a seven-year period from 2012-2018, logging wins in the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl, 2017 Quick Lane Bowl and 2018 Independence Bowl.

Prior to Cutcliffe’s tenure, which began in 2008, Duke had not played in a bowl game since the 1995 Hall of Fame Bowl and had not won a bowl game since the 1961 Cotton Bowl.

Elko leads the Blue Devils to the Military Bowl having been named the ACC’s coach of the year following his first season as a head coach. Under his coaching staff, Duke’s 5-3 ACC record this season marked the program’s most league wins since 2014.

While Duke is returning to postseason play, UCF is playing in a bowl game for the seventh consecutive season.

This will be the first Military Bowl game to be played since 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic caused its cancellation following the last two college football seasons. The Military Bowl began in 2008 and the first five games were played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

Starting with the 2013 game, the Military Bowl has been played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.