2019-12-10 17:42:331 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
-by TJ Inman, Contributing Writer; Image: Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano attempts pass. (Image Source: Bryan Lynn/Getty Images)
Bloomington, IN— For the first time in program history, the Indiana Hoosiers are heading to Florida for a bowl game. Three Big Ten teams getting into New Year’s Six games ensured Indiana did not fall out of a preferred bowl slot and it was announced on Sunday afternoon the Cream and Crimson would play on January 2 at 7:00 in Jacksonville against the Tennessee Volunteers. After a poor start to the season, Tennessee finished strong, winning their final five games to complete the regular season at 7-5 (5-3 in the SEC). The winning streak did not feature any particularly impressive opponents but they got wins over South Carolina, UAB at Kentucky, at Missouri and versus Vanderbilt and there is no question they are playing the best football of the Jeremy Pruitt era at this time. Hoosier Huddle will dive deep on this matchup in the coming weeks but consider this a first look at the Volunteers and the Gator Bowl.
This bowl game has been played continuously since 1946, making it the sixth oldest annual bowl game. The game has been sponsored by TaxSlayer since 2012. Florida and Clemson has the most appearances in the contest, both appearing nine times. Tennessee has appeared in the Gator Bowl on six occasions, most recently in 2015 as they walloped Iowa. The Big Ten last won this game in 2014 (Nebraska). Last season’s game was a blowout victory for Texas A&M over North Carolina State.
Offensively, Tennessee is led by quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. He completed nearly 60% of his passes on the season and had 16 touchdowns to only six interceptions. Jauan Jennings is his top target and he has the physical tools to be an NFL receiver. Jennings will be a handful for IU’s secondary and he’ll likely draw the attention of top corner Tiawan Mullen. However, the top wide out is suspended for the first half of the contest for stepping on the head of a Vanderbilt player in the regular season finale. Josh Palmer, Dominick Wood-Anderson and Marquez Callaway will likely be called upon in his absence. During this winning streak, they have relied on their running game and improving defense. Against Vanderbilt, Eric Gray had 246 rushing yards with three rushing touchdowns. Ty Chandler is the leading rusher for the season but Gray, a freshman, emerged late and is likely to carry the load against IU. Tim Jordan also has more than 100 carries on the year. Tennessee is averaging 4.08 yards per carry on the season and giving up just less than four yards per carry to opponents.
On the other side of the ball, Tennessee is led by Daniel Bituli and Nigel Warrior. The senior duo leads the team in tackles and Warrior has four interceptions. However, senior linebacker Darrell Taylor is their most disruptive force. He has seven sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Volunteers have 14 interceptions as a team. Tennessee is surrendering only 21.7 points per game this season and they have not given up more than 21 points during the five-game winning streak.
Indiana will need to beware of the Tennessee punt return unit as the Volunteers have three punt return touchdowns this season. Tennessee is a historically significant program and this will be a huge opportunity for Indiana to earn a signature victory in a state that they do a lot of recruiting. However, this is also a large challenge for Tom Allen’s squad. Hoosier Huddle will have you covered for the matchup so keep coming back over the next few weeks prior to the January 2 showdown.
To read more from Sammy Jacobs and his staff at HoosierHuddle.com, click here.
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