TaxSlayer Bowl Iowa vs. Tennessee - 5 Things to Know
Growing up in Jacksonville, the city lived and died by college football long before the Jaguars were part of the city’s lexicon. The Gator Bowl was a part of the New Year’s Day festivities, bringing teams from far and wide to enjoy the Florida weather, spend time in the city and add to the economic culture.
Over the years, the game has become regional, showcasing teams form the ACC, SEC or Big Ten on a yearly basis. The New Year’s Day bowl date made sure the game was the first one televised on the holiday.
Now, times have changed. A January 2 date and a change in the College Football Playoff have made led to this game being moved out of its iconic time slot and has diminished a bit of the luster of such a timeless classic. Still, the now TaxSlayer Bowl will have its opportunity to create a new tradition starting with this year’s contest between Tennessee and Iowa.
While the game may not the ideal matchup – pitting the Volunteers against the Hawkeyes, but both schools travel well, which was appealing to the selection committee.
Here are five things you need to know about this game in Jacksonville.
RUN IOWA RUN
Iowa can control the ball and chew up clock by running the football well. Behind an extremely talented offensive line, putting up the season average of 156 yards per game on the ground is a very feasible goal to attain versus Tennessee.
By doing so, it will open up things in the passing game for quarterback Jake Rudock.
If the team can run, they can control the clock, which may allow this team to finish what it started.
REMEMBER THE FOURTH QUARTER
The Hawkeyes have lost four games this season by seven points or less. Iowa's inability to finish in the final period truly has kept this team from reaching greater heights.
If this scenario unfolds in the bowl game, Iowa should have the advantage from an age standpoint. Much of Tennessee's roster hasn't played in a bowl game. Iowa needs to rely upon its experience—while playing with consistency for all four quarters.
PASS PROTECTION A MUST
Tennessee has to do a terrific job of protecting its quarterback. Iowa has an active and extremely productive front seven.
The Volunteers might look to use a blocking tight end or a running back on passing situations. Although this goes without saying, turning the ball over versus an opportunistic defense isn't a recipe for success.
Iowa relishes in playing with a physical, hard-nosed edge. Tennessee has to be able to match the physicality on both sides of the ball. Iowa would like nothing more than to "play this game in a phone booth."
MOVING NORTH AND SOUTH
Tennessee does hold an advantage in overall athleticism. Expect Iowa to try and limit Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane from running the football. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Hawkeyes daring Tennessee to throw the football.
If this is the case, the Volunteers need to make Iowa pay over the top and out on the perimeter. The likes of Pig Howard and Von Pearson can be playmakers—given the opportunity. In other words, stretch the field vertically.
A PIG’S EYE VIEW
If the Volunteers want to win this game, they will need to use Pig Howard early, often and effectively.
Howard's ability to make plays in space with his quickness and agility could prove to be immense. There needs to be a concerted effort in frequently getting the ball to Howard.
Also, sophomore quarterback Josh Dobbs will have to play well in this contest. A key in the game could be Dobbs' ability to use his legs. Against Vanderbilt in the season finale, Dobbs ran for 91 yards on 22 carries.
Should the signal-caller have success on the ground, it will open up things in both the running game and in making throws down the field. Perhaps most important, Dobbs cannot make rash decisions with the football. Iowa's veteran defense will try and confuse him with exotic packages.