The two schools just met on the hardwood, but the Blue Devils and Hoosiers will now meet in a football edition of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at one of baseball’s most recognizable venues.
Duke will face Indiana in this year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 26 at 3:30 p.m. at New York’s Yankee Stadium. The bowl berth marks the Blue Devils’ fourth consecutive bowl game, but Duke has fallen in its last three appearances, including a 36-31 loss to. Arizona State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl last season and a 52-48 defeat to Texas A&M in the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
A win against the Hoosiers would end a bowl victory drought of more than 50 years—the Blue Devils’ last postseason win since defeating Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl in 1961.
“To be chosen to take part in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl brings an incredible level of excitement to our program,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said in a press release. “Playing in our fourth consecutive bowl game means a great deal to our past, present and future Blue Devils. This senior class is obviously a special one, and I could not be happier for a group of young men that has accomplished what no other class has done in the history of Duke Football with the four straight bowl game appearances.”
Duke (7-5) won six of their first seven games before falling on hard times. Beginning with a controversial 30-27 loss to Miami on Halloween night, the Blue Devils lost four straight games, including lopsided losses against ACC Coastal division champion North Carolina and Pittsburgh. But a 27-21 win against Wake Forest to finish the season helped restore the Blue Devils’ confidence heading into the postseason as they seek to stop a string of fourth-quarter mistakes that have cost Duke three bowl wins.
“We’ve had leads in the fourth quarter in all of [our recent bowl games]. It’s been troubling to us,” Cutcliffe said Sunday on a teleconference with reporters. “We’ve played well in bowl games. We just haven’t finished the deal and closed the door on a victory.”
Although just three members of Cutcliffe’s squad hail from the Empire State, Duke has a large alumni base in New York. The Blue Devils snuck up into the Tier I level of ACC bowl games, jumping past the Panthers, who finished 8-4 and beat Duke 31-13 in Durham Nov. 14.
Indiana (6-6) finished fifth in the Big Ten’s East division, but took several of the conferences’ top teams down to the wire. The Hoosiers lost one-possession games to No. 6 Iowa, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 17 Michigan while dropping their first six Big Ten games but responded to close the season with victories against Maryland and in-state rival Purdue to become bowl-eligible for the first time in seven years.
Like Duke, Indiana squeaked past Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., beating the Demon Deacons 31-24 Sept. 26.
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld leads an Indiana offense with a penchant for putting up points. The senior has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 3,184 yards and 24 touchdowns. Three different Hoosiers have at least four of those touchdown receptions, with Simmie Cobbs Jr. serving as Sudfeld’s favorite target. Indiana averaged 36.1 points per game during the regular season, but a porous defense let up slightly more at 37.1 points per game.
“I’ve seen [Indiana] against Wake Forest. I’ve looked at their offense. They’re a big offensive club, you can tell they’re extremely well-coached,” Cutcliffe said. “Whether an opponent was considered a top 10 opponent, it didn’t matter. They played.”
The Big Ten is known for its defense, but all signs point to an offensive shootout in the Big Apple. Duke’s offense put up 30.5 points per game and the Blue Devil defense—which ranked inside the top 10 into October—struggled down the stretch, giving up 38.8 points per contest in its last six games.
The Pinstripe Bowl is one of the nation’s younger bowl games—dating back to 2010—and is among a small handful of bowls that are held in a baseball stadium. The bowl payout is estimated at $2 million per team.