New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Duke Blue Devils
Date: Dec. 26, 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC
Location: Bronx, New York | Yankee Stadium
Best moment: After starting 4-0, the Hoosiers had to wait until the final week of the regular season to secure their sixth win. They did so in style, beating rival Purdue, 54-36, on the road. That clinched the program’s first bowl appearance since 2007 and just the second since 1993.
Lowest moment: On Oct. 17, Indiana led Rutgers 52-27 late in the third quarter at home. Somehow the Hoosiers managed to lose that game, letting the Scarlet Knights score 28 unanswered points in a crushing 55-52 defeat. If the team had failed to make a bowl game this year, it would have always pointed to that collapse as the reason why.
Key player: Running back Jordan Howard has been in and out of the lineup with injuries since September, but he’s one of the nation’s best when healthy. Howard ran for 1,213 yards in just nine games and memorably steamrolled Michigan for 238 yards. Indiana also has the Big Ten’s top passer in quarterback Nate Sudfeld, but its high-powered offense is almost impossible to stop when Howard is also operating at his best.
Motivation level: High. No Power 5 program is less familiar with the postseason than Indiana, which had only been to two bowl games in the previous 22 years. Making it to six wins was a huge burden lifted off the shoulders of coach Kevin Wilson and the players. They should be able to play loose and confident in the bowl.
-- Brian Bennett
Duke Blue Devils
Best moment: The Blue Devils looked like they might be the team to beat in the ACC Coastal when a stingy defense completely shut down Georgia Tech in a 34-20 win. Knocking off the defending division champs seemed like a big deal at the time, with safety Jeremy Cash touting that the Coastal title now ran through Durham, North Carolina. And for the next month, it appeared he might be correct, as Duke got off to a 6-1 start behind one of the nation’s most impressive defenses.
Worst moment: Eight laterals. Seventy-five yards. A 10-minute review. And a loss. That’s essentially the turning point in Duke’s season. After the Blue Devils capped a furious fourth-quarter rally with a touchdown with just six seconds to play, they kicked off to Miami and the rest will go down in ACC lore. Corn Elder scored after eight laterals and what appeared to be at least one penalty and at least one player with his knee down. The controversy lingered for days, but Duke’s hangover was much longer. The Blue Devils dropped their next three after the Miami game.
Key player: In Duke’s seven wins, QB Thomas Sirk was sharp, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt and accounting for 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. In its five losses, Sirk struggled, averaging 5 yards per attempt with just two passing TDs and four interceptions. Sirk finished the season on a high note, however, and his ability to run -- 650 rush yards this season -- makes him a valuable weapon.
Motivation level: High. This is the fourth straight season coach David Cutcliffe has taken Duke to a bowl game, but he’s yet to win one (the Blue Devils haven’t won a bowl since 1961). For all the success Duke has found of late, a postseason victory is that lingering hurdle, and the Blue Devils are eager to make it happen this time.
-- David M. Hale