The Iowa Hawkeyes fell to the Michigan Wolverines 26-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday evening in a game that hinged on a handful of key plays. This is the way for the Hawkeyes, who live in the margins and prefer to be in close games. And while the final score doesn’t seem to reflect it, the Hawkeye defense played incredibly well and Iowa looked like they belonged for most of the game.
Now the Hawkeyes are poised to close out the 2023 season with a bowl trip. On Selection Sunday, we learned Iowa will be traveling to Orlando to take on the Tennessee Volunteers in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The 7th longest-running bowl in the nation, the Citrus has pitted the SEC against the Big Ten since 1993. With Iowa winning the West, this has long been the expected destination for the Hawkeyes who will be facing an SEC bowl opponent for the third straight season. The last two matchups were each against Kentucky with the first in 2021 coming in the Citrus Bowl. Kentucky won that matchup 20-17 before the Hawkeyes exacted revenge the following season in the Music City Bowl with a 21-0 win.
Iowa last faced off with Tennessee way back in 2015 in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The Vols won that matchup in convincing fashion 45-28 in a game that will give most Hawkeye fans heart palpitations to think back on. Tennessee jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead in that one while racking up 461 total yards and an astounding 283 rushing yards.
The Hawkeyes enter bowl season ranked #17 in the College Football Playoff rankings, falling one spot from #16 after their Big Ten Championship Game loss. The Volunteers come in ranked #21 after an 8-4 season that saw them finish third in the SEC East.
The matchup will provide a clash of styles. While Iowa’s defense prowess in unquestioned, the offensive woes are well documented. For Tennessee, the offense is the engine. The Vols ranked 17th nationally in total offense this season and come into the matchup averaging nearly 32 points per game. Defensively, they’ve been solid to an extent that would make Iowa fans jealous if they could get that level of balance. The Volunteers are giving up 22 points per game on the season and rank top-40 national in both total and scoring defense.
That balance is a big reason why the Volunteers, despite having a worse record and being ranked lower, opened as favorites over the Hawkeyes according to DraftKings Sportsbook. DK has the Vols favored by more than a touchdown out of the gate with an over/under just higher than what we saw set for the Big Ten title game. Notably, Iowa has yet to score a point against a ranked opponent this season, losing by a combined 57-0 against Penn State and Michigan.
Here’s a rundown of the details for Iowa’s Citrus Bowl matchup with Tennessee.
Date: Monday, January 1st
Time: 12:00 pm CT
Matchup: #17 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3, 7-2) vs #21 Tennessee Volunteers (8-4, 4-4)
Location: Camping World Stadium - Orlando, FL
DraftKings Sportsbook Line: Tennessee -8, O/U 36.5
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.