Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Indiana vs. Duke

2015 Pinstripe Bowl
Sat, December 26, 3:30 pm on ABC

Indiana_I

Indiana Hoosiers 6-6 (2-6)

Indiana surprised some folks by making plenty of noise this season in the Big Ten. They only finished fifth in the East Division, but they’re paired up with Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State among others so it’s a tough row to sow.

The Hoosiers hung tough with the Buckeyes and Wolverines and lost by just a touchdown to each. They also fared very well against a talented Iowa team that very nearly won the conference.

Kevin Wilson is in his fifth season at the helm for Indiana where he’s posted a 20-40 overall record and an 8-32 record in Big Ten play. Those marks are heavily influence by the 1-11 campaign in his first season after taking over for Bill Lynch. Since then, the Hoosiers have posted records of 4-8, 5-7, and 4-8 before qualifying for a bowl game this season for the first time since 2007 and just the second time since the 1993 Independence Bowl.

The program appears to be on the rise and there’s definitely plenty of talent there already, though they’ve been inconsistent this season. Despite hanging tough against the big boys, the Hoosiers also dropped a close game to a Rutgers program that was in utter turmoil. Not only did IU lose to a bad team in that game, but they blew a 25-point lead in the process.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld has been very good, throwing for 3,184 yards and 24 touchdowns with just five interceptions. At 6’6″, 240 he has the prototypical size for an NFL QB and he’ll likely be one of the top prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft provided he has strong workouts for scouts and general managers.

The rushing attack has been strong as well despite losing First Team All-Big Ten running back Jordan Howard to a knee injury back in November. Prior to that, he ran for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns in just nine games. his status for the bowl game remains unclear with concerns over his health and potential pro prospects weighing heavily on the decision. If he can’t go, Devine Redding will fill in as he did with two 100-yard games to finish the season. On the year, Redding ran for 785 yards and eight scores.

The issues for Indiana are on the defensive side where the unit ranks 121st in the nation in total defense. They allowed 326.3 passing yards per game and more than 14 yards per catch which is 12th worst among all teams. Clearly, Duke will try to attack the weak Hoosier secondary. The front seven isn’t that much tougher though, giving up 180.9 yards per game on the ground. There are plenty of areas for David Cutcliffe’s offense to take advantage.

Duke_B

Duke Blue Devils 7-5 (4-4)

Losing Jeremy Cash is an enormous blow to the Blue Devil defense. His right wrist has bothered him throughout much of the season, but he played through until it finally required surgery. Cash earned ACC defensive player of the year honors for his efforts after posting 101 tackles, 18.0 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, eight quarterback pressures, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

The loss hurts the Blue Devil secondary, but Cash also plays very effectively at the line of scrimmage in blitzes and run support. He means quite a bit to a defense that doesn’t have a ton of depth.

On offense, Thomas Sirk has had to carry the load running and passing. He’s thrown for 2,462 yards and rushed for a team-high 648 yards with 21 total touchdowns. Backup Parker Boehme has added five rushing scores, though he mainly plays in goal line situations. While Duke will likely look to pass quite a bit, the IU run defense is weak enough that some combination of Jela Duncan, Shaq Powell, and Shaun Wilson should be able to make some headway running the football.

That should allow Sirk to focus on the passing game which has struggled at times this season to attack downfield. There should be no shortage of chances taken in that regard in this contest.

Prediction

A win here would represent a significant step forward for either of these programs. Duke has played in four consecutive bowl games, but is seeking its first postseason win since 1961. Indiana is appearing in the program’s 10th bowl game and will seek its first victory since the 1991 Copper Bowl. Overall, Duke is a more balanced team, but the loss of Jeremy Cash on defense can’t be overstated. Still, I expect the Blue Devils to pull out a close one in a game that could have a lot of offense.

Indiana 21
Duke 28

Follow me on Twitter @BestCates. Like us on Facebook and check out @InsideTheACC.

Leave a Reply