Tennessee and Indiana will meet on January 2nd in Jacksonville, Florida in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. It will be the first bowl appearance since 2016 for each team. The early lines out of Vegas are dead heats — plus or minus one on each side. With the oddsmakers seeing this one as a toss-up, let’s take a closer look at the Indiana offense.
Indiana Offensive Rankings
- Total Offense Rank: 31st
- S&P+ Offense Rank: 14th
- Passing Offense: 13th
- Rushing Offense: 100th
- Turnover Margin: 58th (+1)
We were robbed of an interesting storyline in this one, as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was lost for the season back in November. As you might remember, Penix was a Tennessee commit before Butch Jones was fired in 2017. He ended up at Indiana, following former Tennessee offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who has since retired.
Taking over for Penix was Peyton Ramsey, who has been pretty good in relief. The veteran passer actually started the 2018 season under center for the Hoosiers, so he’s not lacking experience.
Ramsey has thrown for over 2,200 yards and 13 touchdowns so far this season. After a 13 interception season in 2018, Ramsey has thrown just four picks this season. He finished the year strong, throwing for over 300 yards and three scores in a win against Purdue in overtime.
Indiana’s passing attack is what fuels their offense. 5-foot-11 receiver Whop Philyor is a key cog in that attack, already over 1,000 yards for the year. Philyor has at least one reception of 35+ yards in each of Indiana’s previous three games. Limiting him will be a key for Tennessee. You can probably expect to see Derrick Ansley and Jeremy Pruitt throw Bryce Thompson his way.
The Hoosiers have three more receiving threats that you should know about behind Philyor. The first is tight end Peyton Hendershot, a 6-4, 255 pound sophomore. He’s the second leading receiver on the team, entering the Gator Bowl with 555 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Ty Fryfogle and Nick Westbrook are secondary options for Ramsey, each offering size at 6-2 and 6-3, respectively. Both players are over 500 yards on the season, hauling in a combined eight scores on the year.
While Indiana may hang their hat on the passing attack, they’ve got a load of a tailback who has put up good numbers as a sophomore. Stevie Scott III missed the final game of the season due to injury, but he was already to 845 yards on the year before that.
Scott is a staggering 6-2, 231 pound runner out of Syracuse, New York. His ten touchdowns on the ground lead the Hoosiers by a good amount on the year. Scott averages 4.7 yards per carry, down from 5.0 as a freshman.
Scott ran for over 1,100 yards as a freshman, settling into a workhorse roll for Indiana.
Sampson James carried the load for the Hoosiers while Scott was out against Purdue. He handled 22 carries, running for 118 yards and a score during that contest.
A good Indiana offense will have to deal with a Tennessee defense that surged in the last half of the season. After missing key pieces like Daniel Bituli and Bryce Thompson early on, Tennessee rebounded once they returned to the lineup.
Their statistical climb brought them all the way up to 29th in total defense to end the regular season. They’ve come a long way from getting gashed by Georgia State to open the season. Even more encouraging, Tennessee ranks 17th in passing defense, setting up a strength vs. strength battle in Jacksonville.