Tom Allen’s first game as Indiana’s head football coach will transpire Dec. 28 in Santa Clara, Cal., at the Foster Farms Bowl against Utah.
Kickoff is 8:30 p.m. ET. Fox will telecast the game.
“The Hoosiers are fired up to be heading west,” Allen, elevated from his defensive coordinator post when IU and Kevin Wilson parted ways this week, said in a prepared statement Sunday. “It’s a great opportunity for us to match up against another great conference in this country in the Pac-12 and play one of their better teams.”
The Utes (8-4) were No. 19 in the final NCAA Championship Rankings and have an impressive body of work. Nobody has beaten them by more than a touchdown. They have PAC 12 wins over Southern Cal, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State.
Washington, No. 4 seed in the NCAA Playoff and slated to play No. 1 Alabama, edged Utah, 31-24. None of Utah’s other defeats were by more than five points.
Indiana hasn’t won a bowl game since 1991’s 24-0 shutout of Baylor at the Copper Bowl, the last time the Hoosiers went to back-to-back bowls.
Mark Hagen, who returned to Bloomington to coach defensive line for Allen this season, was a standout linebacker and captain for that 1991 Hoosier squad under Coach Bill Mallory.
A big reason that IU, like Utah, was able to play the top teams in its league tough was the improvement of an Allen-orchestrated defense to 40th nationally from 120th the year before. And Hagen’s defensive line, despite major personnel losses in the off-season, was key to that.
Utah averaged 30.2 points per game while allowing an average of 23.9. Junior quarterback Troy Williams has thrown for 2,579 yards, 15 TDs and seven interceptions for the Utes, though his completion percentage is a relatively modest .534.
Senior running back Joe Williams has rushed for 1,185 yards and is averaging 6.4 per carry, and Utah’s receiving leaders are senior Tim Patrick (43 catches for 685 yards, 15.9, 5 TDs) and sophomore Raelon Singleton (26 catches for 454 yards, 17.5, 4 TDs.)
IU is 1-2 against the Utes all-time with the last meeting a 40-13 Hoosier loss in 2002.
And it bears noting that Utah is 12-1 in bowl appearances since 1999.
But the Hoosiers seem happy to head to a second straight bowl for the first time in a quarter century, and to play in the Bay Area at Levi’s Stadium, the 68,500-seat home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Utah’s fan base reportedly traveled well to the Bay Area in games against Cal and San Jose State, and IU athletic director Fred Glass hopes Hoosier fans will be able to follow suit.
“Our team is thrilled to play in the Foster Farms Bowl,” Glass said in Sunday’s press release. “Making a second straight bowl game is an enormous milestone for the program and our students will enjoy going against a high caliber opponent in the Utah Utes.
“We can’t wait to bring Hoosier Nation to the Bay Area on December 28th to compete in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Coach Allen just told the team and they are excited for the opportunity to become Foster Farms Bowl Champions.”