Foster Farms Bowl preview: Indiana faces Utah, eyes first bowl win since 1991

Foster Farms Bowl preview: Indiana faces Utah, eyes first bowl win since 1991

Indiana is in a bowl for a second season in a row. And that’s a big deal, as the Hoosiers last pulled off that feat in 1990 and 1991 under Bill Mallory. In fact, the last time IU won a bowl was 1991, when it knocked off Baylor in the Copper Bowl.

The abrupt resignation of Kevin Wilson over “philosophical differences” earlier this month throws a twist into things. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen has been promoted to lead the program. How will he perform his debut as the top man? Allen has done a nice job in his first year in Bloomington putting teeth into the Indiana defense. And that defense will be tested vs. a good Utah team which lost to Washington, California, Oregon and Colorado but toppled Rose Bowl-bound USC.

Utah boss Kyle Whittingham has a strong program, going 9-1 in bowld and winning the last three postseason tilts. And he has a nice QB in Troy Williams, who has thrown for 2,579 yards with 15 TDs and has a good target in Tim Patrick. But Utah has no mojo entering this bowl, as it has lost three of its last four.

Indiana had to win its finale vs. Purdue to get bowl eligible. And, if it wants to win again, RB Devine Redding will likely need a big game. He is No. 6 in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 87.5 yards with 1,050 yards.

Indiana and Utah have played three previous times, with the Hoosiers winning in 1975, and the Utes prevailing in 2001 and ’02. IU has played in California bowls two others times, beating Brigham Young, 38-37, in the 1979 Holiday Bowl under Lee Corso and losing to USC, 14-3, in the 1968 Rose Bowl under John Pont.

Also, here’s the full 2016-17 bowl schedule.

Indiana (6-6) vs. Utah (8-4): 8:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 28, Santa Clara

Player on the spot: IU QB Richard Lagow. The JC transfer needs to make some big plays. But, most importantly, he needs to limit mistakes. His 16 interceptions rank second in the Big Ten. But Lagow also is second in passing, averaging 264.5 yards per game. He has some nice targets in Mitchell Paige, Nick Westbrook and Ricky Jones. Utah is No. 8 in the Pac-12 in pass defense (256.8 ypg).

Best individual matchup: Indiana OT Coy Cronk vs. Utah DE Hunter Dimick. Cronk has been a revelation, starting at left tackle as a true freshman. He projects to be a good player, but is he ready for this? Dimick is a stud, a first-team All-Pac-12 player who leads the league with 14.5 sacks and 20.5 TFLs. He has 29.5 sacks in his Ute career. Want more? The guy even paces the squad with six passes broken up.

Best unit matchup: Indiana defensive line vs. Utah offensive line. New Hoosier d-line coach Mark Hagen has done a good job whipping this unit into shape in his first season in Bloomington. But it will be put to the test vs. a tough and physical Ute line that has helped the offense rank No. 4 in the Pac-12 in rushing (210.5 ypg). IU DT Ralph Green will need to play a big role clogging running lanes. And a talented group of linebackers led by Marcus Oliver needs to help slow down Utah RB Joe Williams, who has 1,185 yards rushing with nine TDs and has rushed for over 100 yards in five of the last six games. Williams came back from a four-game in-season retirement to run wild from mid-October until the end of the season. He rushed for over 1,110 yards over five games — 222 yards per game – and ripped UCLA for 332 yards.

Number: 40th, the national rank of Indiana’s defense in 2016. The Hoosiers were 120th last season.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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