So, we were all set to go to Memphis - sorry for contributing to the chaos there - after Phil Steele, the NCAA's website, and common sense aligned to put the Vols in the Liberty Bowl against West Virginia. And then left field called and said, hey, how about Jacksonville in January?
So now, for real this time, how about Tennessee and Iowa in the Taxslayer (former Gator) Bowl?
With Iowa you get a 7-5 Big Ten team who, like West Virginia, started the year 6-2 and then came back to earth by losing three of their last four. They got housed by Minnesota 51-14 but were competitive with Wisconsin (26-24) and Nebraska (37-34 OT) the last two weeks of the season. They also lost earlier to Iowa State and Maryland; their wins come against Northern Iowa, Ball State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Indiana, Northwestern, and Minnesota.
So it may not be the quality win the Vols would've had a crack at against West Virginia, but if you still value playing on January 1 (or 2 in this case), it's a big win for Tennessee from a public relations standpoint. Vol fans will be eager to buy tickets to go anywhere, though travel will be a little rougher heading south to Jacksonville.
The Vols and Iowa just met in March in Dayton in the NCAA Tournament First Four, won by Tennessee in overtime. The Vols and Hawkeyes haven't met on the football field since 1987.
It's Tennessee's first appearance in the Gator/TaxSlayer Bowl since beating Virginia Tech in 1994. Our friends at Black Heart Gold Pants tell us it's Iowa's first appearance there since 1983. Check them out for more great info on Iowa, and we'll have all kinds of stuff on this match-up in the weeks to come.