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Bowl Breakdown: Insight

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p1_hardy-ap.jpg's Luke Winn breaks down the matchup.

Even though the Hoosiers won just two of their final six games, and have beaten only two bowl teams (Ball State and Purdue), they still possess enough dangerous weapons on offense to put up a fight in Tempe. Oklahoma State will be most concerned with slowing down junior wideout James Hardy, a 6-foot-7 target who caught 74 passes for 1,075 yards and 16 touchdowns. Hardy ranked third in the Big Ten in both receiving yards and receptions, and reached the end zone in all but one contest this season -- against Wisconsin on Oct. 27. Sophomore quarterback Kellen Lewis is a dual threat who threw for 2,839 yards and 26 touchdowns, and ran for 653 yards and eight more scores. Lewis, unfortunately, was Indiana's leading rusher; tailback Marcus Thigpen had only 512 yards on the season.

Sophomore defensive end Greg Middleton led the nation in sacks with 16, including 2.5 in the Hoosiers' upset of Purdue to close the regular season. Despite Middleton's ability to wreak havoc in the backfield, Indiana wasn't particularly adept as a team at stopping the pass, ranking eighth in the Big Ten in pass-efficiency defense. Cornerback Tracy Porter was the bright spot in the secondary, ranking second in the Big Ten with six interceptions. The Hoosiers were gashed on multiple occasions by high-quality running games, giving up 288 rushing yards to Illinois, 368 to Michigan State and 279 to Wisconsin.

Bad news for Indiana's porous run D: The Cowboys own the No. 7-ranked rushing attack in the country, averaging 245.8 yards per game. Senior tailback Dantrell Savage is the workhorse; he gained 1,172 yards on the season and broke the 100-yard mark in all of state's Big 12 games. Sophomore quarterback Zac Robinson is just as versatile as the Hoosiers' Lewis: Robinson ran for 777 yards and seven TDs, as well as passed for 2,522 yards and 20 more scores. The return of senior wideout Adarius Bowman, who had 932 receiving yards and seven TDs before missing the Cowboys' final two regular-season games with a knee injury, will enhance their air attack.

The reason State only won six games, despite having such a powerful offense, was simple: its defense was atrocious. The Cowboys ranked 103rd in the nation in total D, allowing 446.7 yards per game, and were especially poor against the pass, ranking 116th in passing yards allowed per game (292.8). In a game against Texas Tech that State won, 49-45, it allowed an absurd 646 yards through the air. The Cowboys intercepted just 12 balls on the season; five of those picks were made by junior corner Jacob Lacey.

Neither the Hoosiers nor the Cowboys have the D to keep the other under 30 points, a situation that should at least give fans a few entertaining hours of television before they head out to celebrate New Year's Eve. As much as the Hoosiers have struggled down the stretch, they seem somewhat like a team of destiny in the postseason. Indiana played the 2007 season in honor of its former head coach, Terry Hoeppner, who passed away in June from brain cancer at the age of 59. His mantra for this year, "Play 13," referenced Indiana's quest to earn its first bowl bid in 14 seasons. Now that the Hoosiers have reached that goal, don't expect them to take it for granted. Lewis will connect with Hardy and emerging sophomore wideout Ray Fisher enough times to outlast the Cowboys' relentless running game.

The Pick: Indiana 35, Oklahoma State 34