All those who thought the East would be the SEC’s postseason “savior,” raise your hands. Now put them right back down because all y’all are lying.
Yet that’s where things stand as Tennessee (7-6), after jumping out to a 35-7 lead at halftime, cruised home to a 45-28 win over overmatched Iowa (7-6) in the TaxSlayer Bowl. It marked the football program’s first bowl win since the 2007 season, a 21-17 win over Wisconsin in the 2008 Outback Bowl. Since that win, UT has changed coaches on three different occasions.
The win also kept the SEC East’s record in the 2014-15 bowl cycle perfect at 4-0, with Florida, in the Birmingham Bowl vs. East Carolina Saturday, still remaining. The SEC West, the dominant division in 2014, went an abysmal 2-5.
Another thing the impressive win did? Set UT’s bar for the 2015 season high, perhaps unreasonably high. The Vols were one of the youngest teams in the country, and will likely be one of those trendy “dark-horse” selections in preseason Top 25s. They might be a year away from such heights, however.
Regardless, it was an impressive display against the Hawkeyes, with Josh Dobbs again leading the way.
In leading the Vols to a fourth win in five games since taking over under center, Dobbs accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing) and 205 yards of offense. For his efforts, Dobbs was named as the Player of the Game.
Freshman Jalen Hurd ran for a career-high 122 yards, and scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time as a Vol.
Jordan Canzeri ran for 120 yards, on 12 carries, in the loss, the second time in his career the junior has topped 100 yards in a game. On his third reception of the game, Kevonte Martin-Manley set an Iowa record for career receptions with 174.
Iowa was losing 45-14 late in the fourth quarter before a pair of touchdowns in the last 3:30 made the game seem a lot closer than it actually was.
With the Hawkeyes’ loss, the Big Ten is now an even 5-5 this postseason, a mark that’s behind the Pac-12 (5-1) and SEC (6-5) among Power Five conferences. Including all FBS leagues, that mark would be behind Conference USA (4-1) as well.
Ohio State, with a date with Oregon two Mondays from now, is the lone remaining B1G team with a game left to play.