In the last bowl game featuring Power Five schools, the Indiana Hoosiers of the Big Ten have a meeting with the Tennessee Volunteers in the Gator Bowl. Not a bad bowl to be in for Indiana and Tennessee. Neither team were expected to overachieve and compete for a conference championship or anything, so a spot a decent bowl like the Gator is an accomplishment for these two schools.
After Tennessee dropped games to Georgia State and BYU to open the season, it seemed impossible to think that the Volunteers would be playing in Florida in January. It looked like it was going to be another waste of a season in Knoxville. 7-5 isn’t what you set out to achieve at the beginning of the season, but in Jeremy Pruitt’s second season, it’s pretty good for the Vols.
Butch Jones had this program running off the tracks in 2017, as Tennessee finished with a 4-8 and 0-8 record in the SEC. In Pruitt’s first year at Tennessee, he directed the team to a record of 5-7 with a mark of 2-6 in the conference. And now in 2019, the Vols are 7-5 with wins over five teams from the SEC. It’s certainly something to build on in Knoxville. They might still be a ways off from playing Phillip Fulmer football when he was the head coach at the University, though progress is all people wanted to see in 2019.
Now, if the Volunteers completely regress next season, then this doesn’t mean much. Their meeting against Indiana isn’t a marquee bowl game, but I see it as a pretty important game for Tennessee to usher in momentum for next year. For some teams bowl games are completely meaningless and there is no motivation. Pruitt must try and get his message across to the team that there is something riding on this game.
Note that Tennessee are on a five-game winning streak entering the Gator Bowl. Their reward is a trip to Florida to play the 8-4 Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana were up and down this season, as they struggled to get a marquee win in 2019. The Hoosiers concluded the regular season in an entertaining 44-41 win against Purdue. They needed the win to avoid a three-game losing streak going into bowl season.
The Hoosiers are playing in a bowl game for the first time since a 26-24 loss against Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl in 2016. They didn’t have many expectations going into this season, so an appearance in a bowl is welcome for the Hoosiers. Indiana won the games they should have, and lost against the big boys. The next step for Indiana has to be winning against the teams they’re not expected to beat. A win over an SEC school would be a step in the right direction. Head below for our free Indiana vs. Tennessee pick in the Gator Bowl.
Indiana Hoosiers vs. Tennessee Volunteers Gator Bowl Betting Odds:
Indiana vs. Tennessee Gator Bowl Prediction:
Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey will look to finish out the season strong after a productive outing against Purdue. He’s been hot and cold, a little inconsistent at times, so you never really know what you’re going to get out of him. Ramsey passed for 3 touchdowns with no interceptions against the Boilermakers, which was his best performance of the year. Give him credit for a solid effort against Penn State as well. He threw for 371 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a 34-27 loss. Other than the Penn State game, Ramsey looked good against bad defenses.
For instance, Michigan had him running around looking lost on the field, while Ohio State did the same. But against schools like UConn and Northwestern, Ramsey was able to feast because of a bad defense. The same goes for his sharp performance against Purdue. Ramsey ultimately finished the season with 13 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Unfortunately for him, he’s not going to be able to have an easy to read defense in the Gator Bowl.
Jeremy Pruitt needed to change the culture at Tennessee, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Coming from Alabama as a defensive coordinator, he knows what it takes to build a winning defense. There have been noticeable changes with Pruitt running the program. Playing a schedule that features Alabama and Georgia isn’t easy, but Tennessee managed to get by this season and finish the regular season with respectable numbers.
The Volunteers are ranked in the top-30 defensively, with 337.1 yards allowed per game. They’ve been especially good against defending quarterbacks through the air, having allowed only 191.3 yards per game for 17th in the country. They were better against the pass statistically than Florida and Georgia, two defenses who garner a lot of credit for their work. So, Tennessee has been slightly underrated defensively in the SEC this season.
It didn’t result in a win, but their best effort might have been a 35-13 loss against Alabama. Tennessee was hanging around until the Crimson Tide pulled away in the second-half. Tua passed for just 155 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. I’m expecting Ramsey to face issues moving the ball consistently on their secondary. When he had to play a good defense in the Big Ten, it didn’t go so well for him.
Tennessee quarterback, Jarrett Guarantano, played for much of the season with a bad hand. He broke a bone in his non-throwing hand in late October, forcing him to play through a lot of pain in games. He received surgery and was forced to wear a protective brace. Despite the pain, Guarantano churned in a fairly productive season, with 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He was benched in the first-half because of poor play and the hand bothering him, but was able to bounce back.
Guarantano threw 8 touchdowns and 2 interceptions to lead Tennessee to five straight wins heading into the Gator Bowl. Including the loss against Alabama, Tennessee are 6-1 in their previous seven games. That wasn’t a “bad” loss either, so the Vols have been playing solid football after a rocky start in the first-half. Tennessee has allowed just 13.5 points per game minus the Crimson Tide game in their previous six matchups. I suspect they should be able to frustrate Ramsey enough to provide Guarantano with good field position often in this one. Expect a 27-23 or 33-24 win for the Volunteers, as they continue to pile up momentum going into 2020.