Indiana Hoosiers Prepare for Pinstripe Bowl Matchup Against Duke


Who: Indiana Hoosiers (6-6, 2-6) vs. Duke Blue Devils (7-5, 4-4)

When: December 26th, 3:30 EST

Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York


Spread: Indiana -2.5

Over/Under: 70.5

Series History: 2-1 Indiana

The joke you’ve probably heard by now about the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl is that it’s a football game being played in a baseball stadium between two basketball schools. However we all know this to be a false statement as Indiana lost by roughly 273 points to Duke in basketball earlier this year. Regardless of either school’s basketball prowess, this matchup in Yankee Stadium should be an interesting one. The 2015 Pinstripe Bowl sees a 6-6 Indiana team looking for its first bowl win in 24 years take on a 7-5 Duke team that hasn’t seen a postseason victory since the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Putting it in the nicest way possible, neither of these schools is steeped in rich football tradition. In fact, the Duke Blue Devils football budget is so small that head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski had to double as the coach of the football team from 1985-1999, and is the winning-est coach in Blue Devil history (this isn’t true, but you probably would have believed me, only further proving my point about the lack of tradition in the Duke University football program). Nevertheless, this game should be an interesting matchup. Let’s take a look at how these two teams stack up.

Indiana (6-6, 2-6)

Nov 28, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) throws a pass against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Indiana defeats Purdue 54-36. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As you may know, Indiana started the season with a 4-0 record, which hasn’t happened since 1990. However, the Hoosiers’ season soon took a nosedive, as they lost six games in a row, many in heartbreaking fashion. Although they may not have recorded any wins during the six game stretch, the team still looked good in many of their games. They came within a 4th and goal of tying the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, played #7 Michigan State close for 3 quarters, took #14 Michigan to 2 OT’s, and lost to #9 Iowa by one possession. Throughout these games, the Hoosiers dealt with injuries to their two star players: senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld and junior running back Jordan Howard. When healthy, both of these players have shown that they can be successful at the next level. Sudfeld has thrown for over 3,000 yards on the year, with 24 TD’s and only five interceptions, while Howard has put up over 1,200 yards to go along with nine TD’s. However, there are reasons why the Hoosiers have six losses on the year. As seems to be a major flaw in all Kevin Wilson-led teams, the 2015 defense has been at best average and at worst abysmal. Clearly, the entire athletic department at Indiana University does not see the importance of building a good defense (looking at you Tom Crean). The Hoosiers have given up at least 22 points in every game they have played this year, and are averaging 37 points against per game. In fact, they gave up 55 points to a 4-8 Rutgers team whose coach was suspended and then later fired during the season. Clearly, the defensive side of the ball has been a little bit of an Achilles heel. However that is how the whole season has been characterized: an explosive offense paired with an appalling defense.

Duke (7-5, 4-4)

Nov 28, 2015; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Shaquille Powell (28) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Duke defeated Wake Forest 27-21. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Devils came into the year hot off of a 9-4 season the previous year, and exploded out of the gates on their way to a 6-1 record by the time Halloween came around. However, that is when the wheels began to fall off. After a 30-27 loss to Miami (you may remember this game for the wild, illegal, and hilarious game winning lateral play for Miami), the Blue Devils’ season started to fall apart. They lost four straight games to ACC opponents, getting outscored in the process 169-105. However, they managed to pull it all together and end the losing streak, and their regular season, with a 27-21 win over Wake Forest. The Dukies offense revolves around junior quarterback Thomas Sirk, who was actually benched in favor of backup Parker Boehme (at first due to injury, a la Nate Sudfeld) halfway through the season, only to later regain his starting job. Sirk also leads the team in rushing, compiling just over 600 yards on the season. Max McCaffrey, brother of Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, leads the team in receiving, with 48 catches and five TD’s. The Blue Devil defense has been, in a word, interesting. They have shown flashes of brilliance this year, so much so that six games into the season they ranked fourth in total defense. However, they have also looked as bad as the Hoosier defense at times, evidenced by the 66 points they gave up to rival UNC in a game many thought they would have a shot to win. While there is promise on both sides of the ball, there is a reason this team went 7-5.

The Matchup

This has the potential to be an incredibly compelling football game, depending on what versions of these teams show up. Both the Hoosiers and the Blue Devils have a knack for either coming ready to play with their chinstraps buckled, or taking the field looking like they each downed an entire fifth of Fireball the night before (honestly, some of these players may just do that—the game is in New York after all). The key to this game is the Hoosier offense. When they’re on, almost no one in the country can stop them. Michigan State, who is poised to take on Alabama in the CFP, is regarded as having one of the top defenses in the country. When they played Indiana at home, Nate Sudfeld was able to throw for over 300 yards and 3 TD’s, something no other QB has done to them the entire year. Additionally, the Duke defense is not especially effective against the pass. When they were sitting at 5-1 with the 4th ranked defense in the country, they had played two triple-option teams in Georgia Tech and Army, who both heavily rely on the running game. As soon as they began to play teams who put the ball in the air (UNC, Pitt, Virginia), their defense looked lost. Clearly, Indiana has the potential to win this game, but that has been the theme to their entire season: potential. IU had the potential to beat Ohio State at home, but couldn’t pull it off. It had the potential to hand Iowa its first loss of the season, but came 9 points shy of the win. It had the potential to get more than 1,000 fans at one of their home games, but they still can’t even break the triple digit mark.


Nov 28, 2015; West Lafayette, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers center Jake Reed (50) and offensive tackle Jason Spriggs (78) walk off the field carrying the Old Oaken Bucket after the victory against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross Ade Stadium. Indiana defeats Purdue 54-36. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Although IU fans always discuss the potential of the team, the squad has never really proven that they can get to the next level. That said, I believe that with the bowl game being on such a big stage, Kevin Wilson knowing that he needs a victory to maintain his job security, and Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard wanting to prove to scouts that they can succeed at the next level, that the Hoosiers will show up to play. Sudfeld will have a big day, backup QB Zander Diamont (if he suits up, which many believe he will) is going to have one huge play in a special formation built just for him, and the Hoosiers are going to win their first bowl game in 24 years.

41-28 Indiana

Notes: IU running back Jordan Howard is still questionable to play, but all signs point to him suiting up for what will more than likely be his last collegiate football game. Duke All-American safety Jeremy Cash will not play in the game due to injury.