Although five years ago we would’ve been surprised to see Duke disappointed with a bowl bid in New York for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, here we stand, expecting the Blue Devils to blow out the 6-6 Indiana Hoosiers, similar to what we saw earlier in a college basketball feud. And even though this bowl may be as irrelevant as watching the 49ers taking on the Cleveland Browns, here are couple players from each team that provide heavy production and contribution week in and week out.
Thomas Sirk (QB): There are two reasons why in college football the quarterback leads the offense in both passing and rushing yards. One of those reasons is because the quarterback has the versatility and athletic ability to do so. Thomas Sirk, Duke’s coveted quarterback isn’t extremely versatile and isn’t the greatest runner either, but knows how to attack defensive weaknesses and does so with football IQ and mental toughness. In fact, Sirk has attempted over 140 runs, less than 100 shy of his 234 passing completions. This shows the toughness Sirk obtains to take physical shots in order to extend drives. However, this also displays Sirk’s decision-making, as he often takes off without going through progressions or holds onto the ball too long. If Duke wants to come out on top of the Hoosiers, Sirk will need to make quick reads to keep up with Indiana’s tough pass rush.
Carlos Wray (DT): In an extremely inconsistent defensive front for Duke, Carlos Wray has been the leader and foundation this season. He came is as the only returning starter from last year’s squad, and has brought momentum and toughness to the defensive line. However, the Hoosiers offer a fast-paced, attacking offense, one in which scores quick and often. Wray will perpetually require a double-team effort from Indiana’s offensive line, which should open gaps and a opportunities for fellow teammates to exploit the offense.
Nate Sudfeld (QB): Because of the potent offense Indiana plays with, both top playmakers for the Hoosier star on the offensive side of the ball. And obviously, in order to consistently sustain successful drives ending in points, the quarterback has to be involved and productive. Nate Sudfeld, a returning starter and senior leader of the team, has played lights out this season. Although he has only accounted for 29 total touchdowns this season, his pocket passing ability and decision-making has earned him a 153.9 rating this year. Sudfeld has racked up over 3,100 yards this season, partly due to his arm strength and ability to go deep whenever the offense needs a big play. And with the weakness of the Blue Devils defense being the secondary, Sudfeld could explode and add on to his already massive passing yards total on the year.
Jordan Howard (RB): Howard was forced to split carries this year, however, didn’t let a drop off in production accommodate that. Earning First-Team all Big Ten Honors this season, Howard averaged over six yards per carry and rushed for a total nine touchdowns on the year. Howard remains the biggest asset on offense as his production in a game proves as an incredible impact for the perfomance of the rest of the team. Any two-dimensional offense remains dangerous throughout the entirety of the game, and if Sudfeld can exploit the Blue Devils secondary, he may open up the field for Howard to run free, making it a long day for coach Cutcliffe and the rest of Duke’s staff.