Was Tennessee the most impressive bowl team in the SEC?
The Tennessee Volunteers had something to prove in last week’s TaxSlayer Bowl. The Vols hadn’t made a bowl appearance since 2010, nor won a postseason game since 2008.
The fan base was hungry for a change, accounting for the majority of the attendance at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, and the Vols answered with a 45-28 win against Iowa.
Quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw for 129 yards, a touchdown and a deflected interception on 16-of-21 passing, while rushing for 76 yards and two scores on 13 attempts. Freshman tailback Jalen Hurd recorded 122 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, averaging a career-best 7.6 yards per attempt.
The Vols defense forced two turnovers and a 3-of-11 third down efficiency. Iowa, who averaged 237 yards per game through the air in 2014, was held to just 177 on 15-of-31 passing.
With the Vols ahead 42-14 in the fourth quarter, the Hawkeyes scored 21 garbage points to finish with a more respectable score in what was, otherwise, a blowout.
Tennessee was one of the most impressive bowl teams in the SEC this postseason. Iowa entered as a capable opponent and potential upset, despite looking inferior during the game.
The Hawkeyes were one of the better teams to fall to an SEC opponent during the postseason. Aside from Louisville and Minnesota, no unsuccessful SEC opponent had a better record entering their game than Iowa.
Tennessee also saw a solid performance from its offensive line in its bowl victory. Given the o-line’s season-long struggles, its one sack and four tackles for loss allowed seems like a major accomplishment.
The Vols looked like a balanced team in Friday’s game, providing strong performances on both sides of the football. The team has momentum entering Butch Jones’ third season as head coach and could be a surprise contender in the SEC East given its surplus of young talent that has gained experience through playing time this past season.
The TaxSlayer Bowl was a convincing factor in Jones’ “brick by brick” rebuilding process. The Vols are a team on the rise after enjoying one of the SEC’s best bowl performances.