Duke Blue Devils (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Indiana Hoosiers (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS)
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 26, 2015 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: DUKE +2/IND -2
Over/Under Total: 71
The Duke Blue Devils meet the Indiana Hoosiers on December 26 in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Its an interesting ACC vs. Big Ten matchup between a pair of teams that had their share of ups and downs this season. It was a season where both teams went through some drastic form changes and some very streaky passages. Duke ended on more of a sour note, finishing at 7-5 after beginning the season at 6-1. In their last game on November 28, they were able to end the season on a high note with a 27-21 win over Wake Forest. Indiana was able to right the ship at the end of the season, finishing with two straight road wins, including a 54-36 win over Purdue, also on the 28th.
The Indiana season was easy to chart with 4 straight wins to open the season, followed by 6 straight losses, and then two straight wins. Things looked good to open the year and they even beat a good Western Kentucky team. In their first loss, they forced top-ranked Ohio State to dig deep in a 34-27 loss. But five more consecutive conference losses sent them to 0-6 in conference play. Still, four of those six losses were one-score games and that includes competitive losses to the Buckeyes, Michigan, and Iowa. And they showed some resolve ending the season with a pair of consecutive road wins.
Indiana senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld had a pretty good season with nearly 3200 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and just 5 picks. Thats not bad considering some of the tough defenses he faced this season. The 66 slinger leads a pretty balanced offense, working with good receivers like Ricky Jones, Mitchell Paige, and Simmie Cobbs,Jr. With over 1200 yards, Jordan Howard had a nice year, getting help from Devine Reddings 785 yards and 8 touchdowns. But Howard is questionable after injuring his knee against Maryland, missing the last game of the season. This offense was good for over 36 points a game and can do it in a variety of ways. In their last 3 games, they scored 142 points.
The main issue with Indiana is their defense. Their offense is nowhere near powerful enough to withstand a defense that gives up an average of 37.1 points and over 500 yards of total offense per game. They were ranked dead-last out of 128 times in passing-defense, with some quarterbacks literally exploding against this secondary. It was a bad sign when in their first game; they gave up 47 points against FCS opponent Southern Illinois in a one-point win. And they didnt disappoint, easily one of the most suspect defenses in bowl season.
Duke also had their share of issues and its not a good sign when a team starts 6-1 and ends up with just 7 wins. They were sitting at 6-1 and ranked, when Miami scored a last-second win that was the most improbable thing seen on a college football field this season. And though it was eventually discovered that the play should never have been allowed, it still seemed to send Duke into a tailspin where they would not win again until their final game of the season. They lost to some of the better teams in the ACC, though falling to Virginia and narrowly beating Wake to end the season hardly signaled a revival. Its been a trying season for the Blue Devils and well see how they pull it together for the Pinstripe Bowl.
Even as Duke came out to a 6-1 start, their offense always seemed solidly unspectacular. Thomas Sirk isnt a bad quarterback and is handcuffed by a lack of playmakers. He threw 15 TDs this season and ran in six more. Without an impactful back, he led the team in rushing, while scoring 6 times on the ground. A few backs chip in with production, but no one who really makes a huge difference on a consistent basis. Christians brother and Eds son Max McCaffrey is the teams leading receiver with 601 yards, followed by TJ Rahming, and Anthony Nash. They can be a pedestrian group, but they do average over 30 points a game.
The Duke defense really seemed to deteriorate over the course of the season. In their first 6 games, they gave up a combined 56 points, before giving up 232 in their last 6 games. Thats perhaps an over-simplified breakdown, with the tougher opponents coming later in the season, but it still illustrates an inability to contain the better teams they played. And as they are poised to face a good offense in Indiana, one has to wonder how well they will hold up.
There are some fundamental things in common with these two teams. They both looked to be sideways heading to the end of the season, before managing to end on a high note. And neither team can play much defense. Both teams have also seen once-promising seasons go utterly sideways. But theyre both still standing and should combine for an entertaining Pinstripe Bowl. Playing at Yankee Stadium should get these teams fired up, as will the chance to end uneven seasons on what would be a really positive note. At this point, Indiana seems slightly more-intact and I look for Sudfeld to end his Hoosiers career with a big effort and win on the 26th.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Indiana Hoosiers minus 2 points.
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