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75th Gator Bowl Game Preview: Indiana Hoosiers vs. Tennessee Volunteers

A 2019 bowl game being played in 2020. The future is now, people.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

After a season that by Indiana standards qualifies as improbably good, the Hoosiers find themselves in Tampa for bowl season, set to play in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. On the other side of the field, we find the Tennessee Volunteers, miraculously in bowl season after starting the year with two not-great-at-the-time home losses against Georgia State and BYU. The caveat here, though, is that both of those teams ended up bowling, and every other team Tennessee lost to was a top-10 opponent. So while it would be much nicer if I could say “lol ezpz #9Windiana”, this will probably be a close game and one worth watching.

Numbers you need to know

1: The number of times these teams have previously played. That was also a bowl game, the 1988 Peach Bowl won by Tennessee.

1.5: The points Tennessee is favored by, as of this writing

8.3: The amount of points per game, on average, that Indiana has outscored Tennessee by this year

443.6: Indiana’s yards per game average, compared to 364.8 for the Volunteers

1991: The last year Indiana won a bowl game

Players to Watch

Indiana: Whop Philyor, WR

If you’ve spent any amount of time here or any other site that covers Indiana football, you’ve heard of Whop Philyor. Indiana’s best big play receiver, Philyor is having his breakout year, with over 1000 yards receiving this year, despite missing a game and being a non-factor against Maryland.

Tennessee: Jarrett Guarantano, QB

Guarantano seems in many ways to be like IU’s Peyton Ramsey, but his path to a likely start in the Gator Bowl is a bit different than Ramsey’s. While Peyton began the year as Indiana’s backup QB, Guarantano started the season as UT’s #1, but the early losses sent him to the bench in favor of freshman Brian Maurer. Concussion problems for Maurer put Guarantano back in charge, and while he’s had a couple shaky outings since, he seems established back on top for now. His stats are very similar to Ramsey, with fewer yards but more touchdown passes to his name.

So, How’s This One Gonna Play Out?

Good question.

Both teams have had dominating victories, and both have had their doors blown off by teams much better than they are. Indiana’s offense has a lot of playmakers, but most of the “experts” point to Tennessee’s defense when asked why the Volunteers will win this game.

For Indiana, the big question is how the offense will look in Kalen DeBoer’s last game as the Hoosiers’ offensive coordinator. It’s not like the playbook will have changed greatly, but it’s worth wondering if bowl preparation has been at the forefront of DeBoer’s mind, given that he’s now the head coach for Fresno State.

For Tennessee, the question is what version of them will show up. While they haven’t lost since October 19th, they’ve had some very close calls since then, namely a 17-13 win over Kentucky where they trailed 13-0 before coming back and needing a goal-line stand to preserve the win, and a 24-20 win over Missouri two weeks later.

There are very few results that you could throw out and say “This is not a score this game is capable of ending at.” I would find a 6-4 style game unlikely, as well as something in the 67-65 range also being of low likelihood, but pretty much any reasonable combination of 30-something score to 30-something score feels about right for how these teams have played this year.

Given that this is a B1G website, and I’m the Indiana writer, please forgive all the inherent biases in me saying Indiana is gonna win this game 35-31, and for the love of everything holy, don’t tell #VolTwitter.


Who wins the Gator Bowl?

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