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Foster Farms Bowl early look: Utah vs. Indiana

It will be Pac-12 vs. Big Ten in the Foster Farms Bowl in Santa Clara, California. Here's what to watch for:

How Utah beats you: The Utes love to pound the rock behind Joe Williams. The running back, who retired for a monthlong stretch early in the season, has returned with a vengeance: He averaged 185 rushing yards in Utah’s past six games. Quarterback Troy Williams also brings mobility to the table, and is a decent throwing threat -- though he has been inconsistent.

Defensively, the Utes' 40 sacks led the Pac-12 and perpetuated the phenomenon named "Sack Lake City". Stalwarts Lowell Lotulelei and Hunter Dimick are the centerpieces of a very rigid front, and the pressure they have generated has contributed to Utah's 28 takeaways -- third-most in the nation.

How Indiana beats you: With a balanced offense. Quarterback Richard Lagow threw for more than 3,000 yards this season, and when things are going right, the Hoosiers can add a solid running game to the mix with lead tailback Devine Redding. They have one of the most creative running schemes in the Big Ten, though injuries on the offensive line led to a less-than-stellar 3.7 yards per carry this season. The return of All-American offensive lineman Dan Feeney at midseason helped the ground game improve.

On defense, Indiana creates different looks out of its 4-2-5 alignment and is opportunistic, with 19 takeaways this season. Linebacker Tegray Scales (20.5 tackles for loss) is the top playmaker.

How to beat Utah: Make the Utes' offense sputter. Utah’s attack has been slowed significantly in losses this season by defenses much worse than Indiana’s, which is now ranked No. 57 in the nation. The key lies in locking down the perimeter so Troy Williams is uncomfortable throwing downfield. Colorado features the best secondary that he has faced this season, and the quarterback completed only 13-of-40 passes (32.5 percent) against the Buffaloes in Utah's most recent game.

Although the Utes' pressure numbers might seem intimidating on the other side, consider that 21 of Utah's 40 sacks have come in two games. The Utes have registered only eight total sacks in their four losses. It’s vital to keep those floodgates closed so that all heck doesn’t break loose in the backfield.

How to beat Indiana: Win the turnover battle and be physical in the red zone. The Hoosiers were minus-7 on turnovers this season, owing a lot to Lagow's 16 interceptions. The first-year starter has a big arm, but can force things at times, and his smallish receivers can be outfought for 50-50 balls. At 6-foot-6, Lagow isn't easily able to elude pass rushers. Like many spread-it-out, tempo offenses, Indiana also struggles at times when the field shrinks. The Hoosiers scored touchdowns on only 48.9 percent of their red-zone drives, which ranks 121st nationally, and 71.1 percent overall, which was better than only two other FBS teams. Without a dependable power running game or tall wideouts, Indiana often faces limited options near the goal line.

X factors for the Utes: Troy Williams' comfort and accuracy are huge determinants. If he can deliver a credible and productive passing threat, Joe Williams can have room to run wild again for Utah. That forms a lethal combination with a defense that has demonstrated the ability to generate a copious amount of takeaways. The Utes' path to victory is rooted in the line of scrimmage even more deeply than at other programs: If they run the ball well and pressure the quarterback without bringing extra blitzes, the winning "Sack Lake City" effect takes hold.

X factors for the Hoosiers: How will the players respond to the stunning head coaching change? Defensive coordinator Tom Allen was promoted to head coach a few days after the season finale as Kevin Wilson was dismissed amid player mistreatment allegations. Allen was extremely popular in the locker room during his first season on the staff, but he's never been a head coach at this level. Will the players rally around him as Indiana tries to win its first bowl game since 1991?

Bold predictions: Utah finished the regular season on a two-game losing streak that dropped it from Pac-12 title contention to this Foster Farms Bowl, so some might expect the Utes to lack motivation here. But coach Kyle Whittingham is 9-1 in bowls and winner of three in a row, so there’s a track record of postseason success that shouldn’t be ignored. It won’t be easy against Indiana’s solid rushing defense, but expect Utah to prevail 27-24. -- Lombardi

Lagow throws for 300-plus yards. Indiana's quick-strike passing attack and developing offensive line should buy just enough time for him to push the ball downfield. Receivers Ricky Jones, Nick Westbrook and Mitchell Paige might not have the name recognition of some of the Pac-12's star wideouts, but they are productive and reliable. The Hoosiers are playing with house money in a sense, as they will be the underdog against the No. 19 Utes, so expect an aggressive offensive approach. -- Bennett