5 things to know about Indiana's Gator Bowl opponent: Tennessee
For the first time since 2016, Indiana is headed to a bowl game. The Hoosiers trade in the winter cold for a trip to the Sunshine State with a formidable SEC opponent in Tennessee.
Indiana got here by starting off the season hot, opening the year 7-2 and clinching a bowl berth before the month of November. The Hoosiers were then able to claim their eighth win of the year with an win over Purdue, regaining possession of the Old Oaken Bucket.
Tennessee’s season has been a bit of a rollercoaster, starting off in really ugly fashion before ending the year on a five-game winning streak. Now, we’ll get a B1G-SEC matchup in Jacksonville.
Here are five things to know about Tennessee before the Gator Bowl showdown against Indiana on Jan. 2:
Rocky (start, but finished on) Top
Jeremy Pruitt was on the hot seat after the first game of the year. Tennessee dropped an embarrassing home contest to Georgia State and it appeared that the walls were crumbling down in Knoxville. Life didn’t get much better, as the Volunteers started the year 2-5 and looked destined to miss a bowl game for a third-straight season. But with a lighter schedule over the final stretch of the season and both sides of the football starting to click, the Vols were able to rip off five-straight victories, defeating South Carolina, UAB, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt to finish the year 7-5. It’s been a crazy season to say the least.
Tennessee doesn’t have a great rushing attack, but it does have three solid ball carriers that can hurt defenses. Ty Chandler led the way with 620 yards and three touchdowns, Eric Gray totaled 453 yards and three scores and Tim Jordan chipped in 424 yards and cross the goal line once. Even though the Volunteers ranked 12th in the SEC in rushing offense, they can keep their backs fresh throughout the course of a game.
An old rival across the field
Longtime Purdue offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is calling the shots offensively for Tennessee. Chaney was in West Lafayette with Joe Tiller from 1997-2005 and his Boilermaker offenses gave the Hoosiers plenty of fits in those nine seasons. Purdue was 8-1 against Indiana while Chaney was dialing up the offense. Obviously, a lot has changed since then, but he’d probably like to add to his win total against the Hoosiers.
A Warrior on defense
Nigel Warrior has been outstanding for the Vols in the secondary all season long. He’s intercepted four pass, broken up seven more and totaled 68 tackles this season. He’ll be looking to make plays against Indiana’s prolific passing attack. And, it’s worth noting that Tennessee’s defense has only improved as the season has gone along. In each of the final five games, the Volunteers held their opponents to 21 points or less.
It’s been a few years
Both Indiana and Tennessee are snapping a two-year bowl drought. That’s considered to be lengthy in Knoxville, where the fanbase is desperate to get back on a level where the Vols are competing for SEC East titles and potentially even conference championships. It won’t happen this season, but Pruitt and company could really get a boost heading into the offseason with the program’s first bowl win since the 2016 Music City Bowl.