Taxslayer Bowl – EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida
Friday, January 2, 2015 @ 3:20 PM EST (ESPN)
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, Big Ten) vs Tennessee Volunteers (6-6, Southeastern)
Iowa Hawkeyes (Head Coach Kirk Ferentz): After starting off the 2014 season 5-1, the Hawkeyes found themselves deeper into the Big Ten schedule where they just seemed to have trouble competing. They had a hard time establishing any kind of consistency against better teams. With that said, they still had a winning season and earned the right to play in the postseason.
While the Hawkeyes may not have had the explosiveness found in many of the other bowl bound teams, they did find a way to win games while only averaging just over 398 YPG. Jr QB Jake Rudock was the team leader with 2,404 yards passing to go along with 16 TDs through the air and another 3 TDs rushing. His supporting cast featured a lot of mid-level players who made meaningful contributions. The Hawkeyes also proved to be opportunistic by scoring 5 TDs on kick returns and turnovers.
The Hawkeyes are 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games following a ATS loss. Iowa is 6-0 ATS in road games after 1 or more consecutive losses against the spread over the last 2 seasons.
Tennessee Volunteers (Head Coach Butch Jones): This is a Volunteers team that has fallen on hard times. Over the past 6-7 years, they had failed to qualify for a bowl game until this season. The good news is they may be rounding back to form after avoiding their fifth losing season in a row. The fact they built up a little momentum by the end of the (4-1 in last five games) season and received a bowl bid bodes well for next year and into the future.
With only 363 YPG, it was clear that the Vols offense was a bit pedestrian, making the fact they avoided making too many mental errors a real plus. The Vols started the season with Sr Justin Worley (1,579 yards passing and 12 TDs) at QB, but he was injured in the seventh game and replaced by Soph Joshua Dobbs (1,077 yards passing and 8 TDs) who did an admiral job of filing in. Dobbs was able to offer a bit more of a running threat and he also added 393 yards rushing with 6 TDs scored on the ground. A decent defense was led by Fr DE Derek Barnett who had 69 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks.
The Volunteers are 1-8 ATS in their last 9 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game. Tennessee is 10-2 over after failing to cover the spread in 2 out of their last 3 games over the last 3 seasons.
Major Injuries: Tennessee – Justin Worley QB (doubtful)
Preview: Both of these teams figure to come into this game with a conservative game plan. The game is void of top players, but make no mistake, both of these teams are capable of playing good football. The Vols may be a little better on defense, which is more than enough to tip the scales in this one. We look for Tennessee to get the straight-up win in this one.