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Duke vs. Indiana: Pinstripe Bowl Preview

The 2015 Pinstripe Bowl: A football game between basketball schools at a baseball stadium

Duke (7–5) vs. Indiana (6–6)

Dec. 26, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Reason to watch

A matchup between Duke and Indiana might have casual observers pining for basketball, but don’t be shocked if the final score of this year’s Pinstripe Bowl resembles that of a basketball game. Both teams average more than 30 points per game, and perhaps more significantly Indiana gives up a ton of points: The Hoosiers allowed 37.1 points per game this year, 116th in FBS. But expect Kevin Wilson’s team to keep up with the Blue Devils. Indiana put up 47.3 points per game in its last three contests, going 2–1 over that stretch to secure bowl eligibility. If you’re looking for Boxing Day excitement, this football game between basketball schools at a baseball stadium (Yankee Stadium) is must-watch.

Keep an eye on: Indiana running back Devine Redding

Complete 2015–16 college football bowl game schedule

After star running back Jordan Howard left the Hoosiers’ game against Maryland on Nov. 21 with a knee injury, Redding has filled in nicely. The sophomore spelled Howard throughout the season, but in Indiana’s final two games he rushed for a combined 274 yards, helping lift the Hoosiers to wins at Maryland and Purdue. Howard’s status for the Pinstripe Bowl is still up in the air, but Indiana’s success on the ground will go a long way toward determining the outcome of this game: In wins this year, Indiana averaged 237.5 yards on the ground, while in losses the Hoosiers only posted 172.2 rushing yards per game. Duke, meanwhile, ranks 38th in the FBS in rush defense, allowing just 143.4 yards per game. Indiana would love to have Howard return for its bowl game, but Redding seems capable of carrying the load.

Did you know…?

Duke allowed a combined 47 points through its first six games. But in its seventh game, the levee broke: The Blue Devils allowed 43 points to Virginia Tech but prevailed 45–43 in four overtimes. Despite the win, the game still marked a turning point. Duke proceeded to lose four straight games, allowing 159 combined points in those four defeats.

The Blue Devils’ streakiness was outdone by Indiana, however: The Hoosiers won their first four games before losing their next six, only to win their final two to reach a bowl.

Final analysis

The outcome of this game will be determined by which versions of both teams show up to Yankee Stadium on Saturday. Will it be the Indiana that won its opening four games or the team that lost six straight? Will the Duke that started 6–1 take the field, or will it be the Blue Devils that lost four straight games toward the end of the season? Either way, expect offensive fireworks.

Indiana’s defense has been exceptionally bad this season, and the question is whether Duke’s offense can take advantage. Blue Devils quarterback Thomas Sirk has passed for 15 touchdowns and six interceptions this year, and his last few games have been unspectacular. But it’s hard to think of a better antidote to unspectacular play than the Hoosiers’ defense, which is dead–last in the FBS in passing yards allowed this season, giving up an average of 326.3 yards per game.

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Fortunately for Indiana, the Hoosiers have the ability to keep up. Senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld has passed for 3,184 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions this year, and the Hoosiers have rushed for a combined 2,458 yards this year, 30th in FBS. Duke has been prone to disastrous performances on defense this season, allowing 66 points in a loss to North Carolina and 42 in a recent defeat to Virginia.

It’s difficult to separate these two teams, but Indiana’s tough schedule this season will prove invaluable. The Hoosiers have been tested by four ranked teams this season—Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan—and while they lost all four games, only the Spartans beat them by double–digits. Duke, meanwhile, only played two ranked teams, Northwestern and North Carolina. Though Indiana’s defense has been objectively bad this year, its 6–6 record isn’t reflective of this team’s ability. The Hoosiers’ experience playing the Big Ten’s best teams will serve them well as they look to win their first bowl game since 1991.

The pick: Indiana 41, Duke 38