Avoiding a Blue Christmas: Numbers that Matter against Duke

Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)

For the first time since the 2007 season, my freshman year at IU, the Hoosiers are taking part in the postseason, in one of the most storied venues of all-time, Yankee Stadium. And while it may not be the same one that Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra , Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio made famous, the stage is no less impressive.

Coach Wilson and his resilient squad enter their match up with the Duke Blue Devils in the Pinstripe Bowl on a two-game winning streak. On paper, this looks like a very even match up , the Hoosiers at 6 and 6 and the Blue Devils 7 and 5. The teams played one common opponent this season, Wake Forest, who the Indiana defeated by 7 and Duke beat by six.

In a lot of ways the Duke program is one that the Hoosiers has some level of respect and admiration for. David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devil's head coach has led a historically downtrodden football program to an unprecedented four-straight bowl games, at a school that is primarily known for its men's hoops. The parallels are fairly obvious, but before I go any further, let's take a look at the 'Numbers that Matter' in this match up with the Blue Devils.

2 - 1 - The Hoosiers don't hold a winning record against many Power Five teams, it just so happens they do with the Blue Devils. IU won the first two match ups between the teams in 1980 (31-21) and '83 (15-10), Duke winning the last one in '84 (31-24).

 24 - It's been quite a while since the Hoosiers could boast about a bowl victory, 1991 being the last time they beat an opponent in the posteason. Indiana shutout Baylor 24 to 0 in the Copper Bowl. 

1961 - The bowl victory drought has been even longer for the Dukies, last winning against Arkansas 7 to 6 in the Cotton Bowl on January 2, 1961.

 4 - As I mentioned above, this is Duke fourth straight trip to a bowl game, so this is old hat for this group for their. This will give the Blue Devils the slight advantage, as they won't be as likely to get caught up in the bright lights.

28 - How many days each team has had to prepare for the game, so both squads have had ample opportunity to study each other from top to bottom over the last four weeks. However, expect both teams to sprinkle in something extra special come Saturday in attempt to catch their opponents off guard.

36.2 - There should be no shortage of points scored come Saturday, as the Hoosiers enter the game with top-scoring offense in the Big Ten and the 22nd best in the country.

37.1 - On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Hoosiers scoring defense, which ranked last in the Big Ten and 115th in the country. Can the defense slow down Duke's offense enough to pull out the victory?

30.5 - Speaking of the Blue Devil's offense, they currently have the No. 55 best scoring offense in the nation.

42.6 - One of Hoosiers major areas of weakness on defense all year has been their inability to get opponents off the field on third down. Opposing teams have converted 42.6 of their third down attempts against Indiana this season,  94 best in the nation. 

43.9 - And Duke's offense is quite efficient on third down, so this could become an even bigger issue for Indiana on Saturday.

326.3 - And if you watched the Hoosiers at all this season, you know that they've had more trouble than anyone and everyone in the country defending the pass. Were the four weeks of preparation enough for the young secondary to clean up the issues that plagued them all season?

253.4 - Again, the Hoosiers weakness on defense plays right into the hands of the Blue Devils, as they have a top forty passing attack. 

11.71 - Special teams could come up big for the Hoosiers on Saturday, especially with Mitchell Paige returning punts. A couple big returns by the shifty junior could give Indiana a great advantage on offense, shortening the field for Sudfeld and Co.

3.23 - Again countering, Duke doesn't allow a lot of big punt returns, so it will be interesting to see who wins out here.

Come Saturday afternoon Indiana coaches, players and fans alike will all be hyped for the Pinstripe Bowl. Duke presents some problems for Indiana, but if the Hoosiers are able to replicate their efforts that they put up against some of the Big Ten's top competition, than there's little doubt that Kevin Wilson and his club could and should come out on top. Factor in that Duke is without their top defensive player Jeremy Cash, and the Hoosiers should move the ball with ease through the air all afternoon. But once again the outcome of the game could ultimately come down the Hoosiers making some timely plays on defense. Winning on Saturday would be a great way to end the 2015 season and begin the 2016 campaign.