2016 Foster Farms Bowl Preview
Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, California
Indiana Hoosiers (6-6) vs. Utah Utes (8-4)
Wednesday, December 28, 5:30 PM PT
Bowl Swag: Gift suite, Fossil watch, Timbuk2 backpack
Utah had a solid year, finishing the regular season with an 8-4 record and taking third place in the PAC-12 South. They had a shot to finish second if not for late losses to Oregon and Colorado by a combined seven points. Utah was competitive even in defeat, in fact all four losses came by seven points or fewer. Only a touchdown separated the Utes from eventual College Football Playoff contender, Washington.
This is Utah’s third bowl game in three years after two consecutive appearances in the Las Vegas Bowl. This will also be Utah’s opportunity to earn nine wins, as they have in the past two seasons. Utah has a 9-1 overall record in bowl games.
Led by junior quarterback Troy Williams and senior running back Joe Williams (not related), Utah averages over 30 points per game. In his first year as a starter, Troy Williams tossed for over 2500 yards, 15 touchdowns (plus five rushing) and just seven interceptions. He has been battling through a sprained MCL for most of the season. Joe Williams rushed for 1185 yards and nine touchdowns. Bear in mind that those numbers reflect only eight games of action, as Williams “retired” from football after the first two games and then “unretired” a few weeks later after teammates went down with injuries.
Utah ranks 52nd in total defense giving up 5.67 yards per play. They have the 25th best rushing defense in the country and are responsible for 40 sacks on the season, which averages more than three per game. Their passing defense is somewhat less developed, ranking outside the top 100 in that category. Although they allow nearly 13 yards per completion, they are tied for 10th in interceptions with 17 on the year (statistics courtesy of the NCAA). Senior cornerback Dominique Hatfield will likely miss the Foster Farms Bowl due to a mysterious “team issue.”
Indiana had the definition of an average season, going 4-5 in conference, 6-6 overall, and finishing fourth in the Big Ten East. Contributing to that, the Hoosiers had the misfortune of playing (and losing to) three of the top six CFP ranked teams: Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan.
Foster Farms is Indiana’s third bowl appearance in the last eleven years. They lost the 2007 Insight Bowl and the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl to Oklahoma State and Duke, respectively.
This Indiana squad averages 24 points per game. Starting at quarterback will be Richard Lagow, a junior college transfer who is in his first year at Indiana. He passed for nearly 3,200 yards and 18 touchdowns, but threw 16 interceptions. The Hoosiers also have a solid running back in Devine Redding, who has 1,050 rushing yards on the year.
Indiana ranks 41st in total defense, allowing five yards per play. Similar to Utah, they surrender about 13 yards per completion, but have fiver fewer interceptions. The Indiana defense allows just 3.64 yards per carry (statistics courtesy of the NCAA).
The biggest story for Indiana is that head coach Kevin Wilson was fired on Dec. 1 over alleged player mistreatment. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen has taken over as head coach.
This is the third time these teams have met. Utah has taken two of three.
I expect Utah to get a lot of pressure on Lagow, resulting in sacks or mistakes. He will need to play an almost error-free game against the ball-hawking Utes for his team to have a chance.
Given Utah’s history of strong postseason performances, I predict that Utah wins 28-17.