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XFactor: Duke football vs. Indiana

Duke is looking to end 2015 on a high note as they travel to New York City to take on Indiana in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Blue Devils are participating in their fourth straight bowl game and are looking for their first bowl win since the 1961 Cotton Bowl Classic. Every week throughout the football season, we will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest:

Duke: safety Corbin McCarthy

After the season-ending wrist surgery to All-American safety Jeremy Cash, McCarthy will have to step up in the Duke secondary. The Norco, Calif., native filled in for Cash earlier this season against Wake Forest after Cash was suspended for the first half following an ejection for a targeting penalty the week before. McCarthy started four games as a redshirt freshman, but has lost playing time to superior talents amongst the team's defensive backs. McCarthy has posted 11 tackles, one interception and one pass breakup on the season, but will need to fill the void left by the injury to Cash at the strike safety position in a bigger way to stop Indiana's powerful offense.

McCarthy and the rest of the Duke secondary faces an aerial attack spearheaded by senior Nate Sudfeld. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten in total offense this season with a big reason why being Sudfeld, who threw for 3,184 yards and 24 touchdowns. Although McCarthy has big shoes to fill, he has proven capable of making an impact in the team's 4-2-5 defensive scheme.

Indiana: running back Jordan Howard

Although he missed three games with an ankle injury and is currently questionable for the contest with a knee injury, Howard proved to be indispensable for the Hoosiers this season. After transferring from UAB in the offseason, Howard provided an immediate replacement for All-American running back Tevin Coleman. With a month off, Howard has likely had ample time to prepare for the Blue Devils and is ready to go for Saturday. The junior rushed for 1,213 yards behind an underrated Indiana offensive line that faces a Blue Devil front-seven that has something to prove after faltering down the stretch after a strong start to the season.

Duke's run defense–led by senior defensive tackle Carlos Wray—will need to provide a stout test to Howard and backup Devine Redding, in case Howard is hobbled. If either back can consistently pick up intermediate gains for the team's offense on early downs, Sudfeld will be able to take to the air and pick apart a struggling Blue Devil secondary.


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