Duke, Indiana eager to see long bowl losing streaks come to an end in NYC
Who: Indiana vs. Duke
What: Pinstripe Bowl
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Yankee Stadium, New York
Line: Indiana -2.5
Matchup to watch: Nate Sudfeld vs. Corbin McCarthy
When a defender goes down in a game, especially a defensive back, you often see a quarterback attack his replacement on the very next play. I imagine that’ll be the case with Sudfeld against McCarthy. Duke lost All-American safety Jeremy Cash to wrist surgery, which means the Blue Devils will be without their best defender against an offense that was rolling down the strech. McCarthy likely won’t be able to replace Cash as a blitzing run-stopper, but he’ll need to fill some big shoes in pass coverage. Part of what makes Sudfeld so dangerous is that he can make a variety of throws across the field. He’s rarely flushed out of the pocket — IU allowed just 13 sacks all year — and he can methodically pick a defense apart. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Sudfeld takes some shots deep with Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Ricky Jones early to see how well the Blue Devils can adjust without Cash.
Thing I’m excited to see: IU in the postseason
For everyone that says there are too many bowl games and questions whether or not they mean anything, take a look at Indiana. The program has had six coaches since its last bowl victory in 1991. Every year is an uphill battle for IU football just to get to six wins. Usually, the Hoosiers fall short of that. Whether its poor defense, costly penalties or a key injury, something always seems to prevent IU from hitting that mark. For once, IU fans can enjoy the fact that their team showed significant progress. They get to play in one of the world’s marquee venues on ABC in December. Win or lose, that means a ton to a program that has struggled to build momentum as much as any Power Five team in the last 25 years. Saturday will be a reward for a fan base that is used to talking about the basketball team’s conference opener this time of year.
Number to remember: 127
That was Indiana’s ranking against the pass in 2015. That’s dead last in FBS. Thomas Sirk isn’t a guy that’s going to start tossing 50-yard bombs to expose IU. He can do it in a different way. At 6-4, 220 pounds, he has mobility and he can throw outside of the pocket. Like Sudfeld, Sirk has no problem piecing drives together by finding the soft spots in a defense. He’ll have the benefit of working with offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery, who took the head job at East Carolina, one more time. The question will be whether or not IU’s defense can find a way to get off the field. That’s always the question. It can’t afford to put it all on the secondary. Nick Mangieri and Darius Latham have to get off blocks and generate pressure without IU blitzing. If they can do that, the IU offense is plenty capable of doing the rest.
Prediction: Indiana 45, Duke 38
Yes, I believe the B1G’s offense will win another shootout, with or without Jordan Howard. I gave up a long time ago trying to figure out Kevin Wilson’s injury dialect. But the IU offense showed it can still light up the scoreboard without him. Devine Redding will have a major role either way, which he showed down the stretch that he can handle. I maintain the belief that this will be one of the most entertaining bowl games of the year with all of the points that figure to be scored. Duke is eager to end a bowl losing streak that dates all the way back to 1961. But ultimately, IU is the one that sees its drought finally come to an end.