NEW YORK --- In the weeks leading up to Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl (3:30 p.m., ABC), both Indiana and Duke have shown mutual respect and admiration for each other.
"Two, really, very similar programs that think a lot alike playing each other in a great bowl game, so we're truly honored and excited to be here," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said Friday afternoon.
But the Blue Devils (7-5) have served as the blueprint which Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson has shown his team in rebuilding an Indiana program which is making its first bowl appearance in eight seasons. Duke's Pinstripe Bowl appearance is its fourth-straight bowl game appearance. When the Blue Devils began the streak in 2012, they ended a 17-year drought.
Indiana (6-6) is playing in the postseason, or playing 13, for the first time since 2007. It's just its second bowl appearance since 1993.
"Our program is very honored and proud to be here, playing an outstanding institution and program with great players and great coaches," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "But working to get to this point, and having I don't think our guys having been to a number of bowls, and Duke now four in a row, there's different ways of doing things."
Indeed, the paths taken by both programs to get to this point have been distinct, especially with the regular season results.
After winning four straight games at the start of the season and going undefeated in nonconference play, Indiana would lose its next six straight - four by eight points or less - and need to win its final two games on the road to become bowl eligible.
The Blue Devils earned a gutsy overtime win over Virginia Tech to move to 6-1 on Oct. 24, just past the halfway point of the season. However, they would go on to lose four in a row before closing out the season with a 27-21 win over Wake Forest.
Both programs are dealing with injuries to key players heading into their biggest game of the season.
All-American Duke safety Jeremy Cash had season-ending wrist surgery on Dec. 16 and, as a result, will miss the bowl game.
"They're losing a great player in Jeremy Cash," Wilson said. "(But) it's not going to change the structure signifcantly."
While Wilson won't admit it, Indiana continues to play close to the vest when it comes to running back Jordan Howard's status. Howard, a junior, ran for 1,213 yards and nine touchdowns over nearly nine and a half games during the regular season.
Wilson did say Howard had been practicing this week but wouldn't elaborate further on his status beyond declaring him a game-time decision.
"I'm not trying to be coy because David's sitting here," Wilson said. "I thought he was going to play against Maryland, didn't feel well. He's practiced, he's done a fair amount of work."
The Hoosiers have had about two weeks to prepare, which has given Howard some additional rest leading up to the game and younger players much-needed additional practice reps.
Senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld said some of the young receivers and defensive players have been getting extra reps leading up to Saturday's game.
"Those practices were incredible for our team and for our program," Sudfeld said. "I think it's good just for the future of our program."
The extra preparation is important for Indiana, which looks to contain dual-threat Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk.
Sirk, who passed for 2,462 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 648 yards and six touchdowns, is one of only four quarterbacks across the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, SEC and Pac-12 to lead his team in both passing and rushing yards.
"We've just got to keep the ball out of his hands, and when he's back there, we've got to get to him," IU sophomore linebacker Marcus Oliver said. "Just not giving him options. You've got to take the life out of him early."
A win for Indiana would mark its first bowl game victory since 1991, when it defeated Baylor 24-0 in the Copper Bowl. However, one could make the argument that more is at stake for Duke.
Though the Blue Devils have gone bowling four consecutive years, they haven't actually won a bowl game since 1960. That year, they defeated Arkansas 7-6 in the Cotton Bowl.
Much is at stake for both programs, and there will be plenty watching between the fans at Yankee Stadium and the national television audience of ABC.
"I know we're both looking forward to going out there and both teams having a big-time game putting on a great show on national TV," Wilson said.