Iowa to play Tennessee in TaxSlayer Bowl


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Earlier this year, around Sept. 1, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta talked with Rick Catlett, the CEO and president of the TaxSlayer Bowl. They spoke about the still-young 2014 season and where the Hawkeyes might play their postseason bowl game, should they reach eligibility.

“And I jokingly said, you know, where can I sign up,” Barta said. “Going to a bowl used to be about constant conversations all year and then finding the best matchup. So that’s sort of how it’s reverted.
“I liken it a bit of a throwback, how it used to be.”

On Sunday evening, the Iowa football team accepted an invitation to play Tennessee in the 70th annual TaxSlayer Bowl. Kickoff is set for 2:20 p.m. (CST) on Jan. 2, 2015, in Jacksonville, Florida, at EverBank Field. ESPN will broadcast the game.

“We’re thrilled to get the invitation to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And it’s exciting for all of us, certainly. We’re looking forward to an opportunity to line up and play again.

“More importantly, to be together another for three-plus weeks as we get ready for the game.”

It will be Iowa’s second trip to the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly known as the Gator Bowl. In 1983, the Hawkeyes lost to Florida, 14-6, in front of an announced 81,293, the fourth-largest crowd in the history of the bowl.

Iowa, 7-5 this year, has been named the visiting team and Tennessee, 6-6, is the home team. It will be the third-ever meeting between the two. Iowa beat Tennessee, 28-22, in the 1982 Peach Bowl. The Volunteers evened the series with a 23-22 win in the 1987 season-opener in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Both Barta and Ferentz were adamant about not knowing Iowa’s bowl destination until very late in the process. Ferentz opened Sunday night’s TaxSlayer Bowl teleconference saying he only found out a few minutes before the teleconference began.

Barta said he didn’t have a solid idea until later on Sunday afternoon.

“In the last couple of days, it really started to narrow down,” he said. “But it wasn’t until last night and yesterday afternoon when, through the [conference] championships, we started to get a clearer picture. And it truly wasn’t until late this afternoon that I had an absolute idea of where we were headed.”

The game will be Iowa’s second-consecutive bowl game against a team from the SEC, seventh overall. The Hawkeyes lost to LSU, 21-14, in the 2014 Outback Bowl, but are 4-2 against SEC teams in bowl games under Ferentz.

This is the 13th season Iowa has reached bowl eligibility in 16 seasons  — and it is 6-5 in bowl games — under Ferentz. Of those six wins, four have come in January bowl games.

Even more, since the 2001 season, no Big Ten team has won more bowl games or has a higher winning percentage in bowl games than the Hawkeyes. (This year, a record 10 teams from the Big Ten accepted invitations to bowl games.)

For Iowa, the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl is a chance to end an otherwise disappointing season on a high note. A win would mean the Hawkeyes finish with back-to-back seasons with at least eight wins for the first time since the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

But it is also a chance for the seniors to soothe the sting of those final two regular-season games — two games that, with some help, could’ve pushed the Hawkeyes into the Big Ten championship game, which was their ultimate goal.

“This is our last game in a Hawkeye uniform,” All-American left tackle Brandon Scherff said. “It’s hard to believe that. But I’d say we’re determined.

“It’s going to be nice. We have a bad taste in our mouth from the last two games, but Coach Ferentz always talks about moving forward. Those games are behind us. You can’t look backwards, you have to just move on to what you can control.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa football team.

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