Indiana’s played thirteen for two consecutive season. Now, they’ll try to win that extra game for the first time in 25 seasons.
The Hoosiers haven’t won a bowl game since the 1991 Copper Bowl -- a 24-0 win over Baylor in Tucson. Such a win would have massive implications for the Hoosiers heading into 2017, giving Tom Allen a jolt to start his tenure with nearly everyone returning and a favorable schedule next season.
One problem in the way of that? Kyle Whittingham and the Utah Utes don’t lose bowl games. Here’s some predictions, the bet to take, and a couple things to watch heading into tonight in Santa Clara.
What to watch for
Indiana’s biggest question mark? Offensive coordinator. How will Kevin Johns call the offense in the first game all his own? It’s not known how much of the playcalling Kevin Johns handled as Kevin Wilson’s offensive coordinator. Common knowledge would seem to believe Wilson did most of the heavy lifting on playcalls, while Johns’ primary focus was on position coaching quarterbacks & recievers. Tom Allen’s not going to have much to do with the offense other than situational decisions. With the offensive coordinator posssibly still up in the air on Allen’s staff, Wednesday night should give a good sense of Johns’ abilities as a playcaller. With his boss departed, this will be his big break.
Sometimes Troy Williams does good things and other times he does bad things. No, this isn’t the Indiana meme. The Utah quarterback is undoubtedly key to the Utes success - and they often go as he goes. A capable runner, he’s now fully healthy from a meniscus injury that hampered him through 2016. But his passing numbers are far from impressive, not completing a high percentage of throws in most games. (See a 4-13 performance at Oregon State and another lackluster outing in his last game at Colorado.) It’ll be strength-on-strength when Utah wants to rely on the run against Indiana’s now Top-20 (!!!) rush defense. If Tegray Scales & Marcus Oliver quiet Joe Williams, Indiana’s pass secondary will have the edge over Utah’s passing offense, per S&P+.
Neither of these teams can score in the daggone red zone. If you’re coming to this one expecting a typical Indiana football team, well, bad news — don’t expect a ton of points. Both of these teams feature fairly stout defenses, and offenses that can’t seem to score when they get on short fields. Utah is 98th nationally when it comes to finishing drives in S&P+. Indiana? 125th. Woof.
GET RICH QUICK PICK
O/U is 55. Indiana is now without its primary offensive playcaller. Indiana’s defense is better than Utah’s offense, per S&P+. Neither team can convert yards to points. Take that under and run to the bank, baby. Hurry, go now.
Vegas: Utah -6.5
S&P: Utah by 1.9 points
Prediction: It’s hard to pick against Kyle Whittingham in bowl games, but the S&P numbers seem to give Indiana more than a punchers chance. Pick the Hoosiers to cover, at least. I’ll pick them to win because, like, this is an Indiana blog and I can do that. Indiana 26, Utah 24.