5 Thoughts On The Tax Slayer Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Tax Slayer Bowl

Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl
Tennessee 45, Iowa 28

And You Care Because … Tennessee got up 28-0 and had no problems the rest of the way. Jalen Hurd ran for two touchdowns from three and 29 yards out, and RB Marlin Lane found Vic Wharton for a 49-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Joshua Dobbs took over in the second with an eight-yard touchdown run and a 19-yard touchdown pass to Von Pearson for a 35-7 halftime lead. Dobbs’ 11-yard scoring dash made it a true rout. Iowa got two Mark Weisman touchdown runs and two C.J. Beathard scoring passes, but the game was never close.
What Else? Tennessee RB Jalen Hurd ran 16 times for 122 yards and two scores
- Iowa QB C.J. Beathard completed 13-of-23 passes for 145 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran eight times for 82 yards
- Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs completed 16-of-21 passes for 129 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 13 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Tennessee 461 – Iowa 421
Game Rating: D+

By Pete Fiutak
1. I hate the idea that bowl games matter too much for teams going into the following season, but this one really might make a difference for a Tennessee program that seems to thrive on momentum. It wasn’t just a win for the Vols over Iowa – it was total domination. It was a win that said that with a year of experience this could be a devastating offense with some of the most exciting playmakers in the SEC. Butch Jones is still going to need to do some tweaking on defense, and the O line might need a little work, but it’s all there for something special to be coming next year.

By Rich Cirminiello
2. Rocky stomp.

Let’s be honest with one another. Most bowls don’t really matter. Today’s TaxSlayer Bowl, though, is going to be one of the exceptions.

In the grand scheme of things, the majority of non-playoff postseason games generate a fleeting impact. Wins are terrific, of course, but it’s too simplistic to think that getting a W in December will automatically carryover into February’s Signing Day or the following season. And then there’s Tennessee, which is capable of using today’s wire-to-wire schooling of Iowa in Jacksonville as a springboard into 2015.

The Vols are young, hungry and heading in the right direction under second-year head coach Butch Jones. The right recruits are making their way to Knoxville, and there’s finally momentum and a positive vibe to close out a season. Tennessee didn’t just win a game today at EverBank Field. It convincingly captured the school’s first bowl victory in seven years to secure a winning season. And at a time that SEC bashing is all the rage, the Volunteers had to be thrilled to be one of the league’s assets for a change.

Tennessee throttled Iowa, using a slew of underclassmen on both sides of the ball. And all of those blue-chip future Vols had to feel better than ever about the decision to wear orange next year. This was big. Big enough to still be felt inside the UT athletic facilities long after the team arrives back home tomorrow.

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3. What does Iowa do from here quarterback-wise? The Hawkeyes didn’t get blown out because of Jake Rudock, but he certainly didn’t help. C.J. Beathard got to turn it loose with no consequences, but now the quarterback job should be open for the taking – if Beathard is still around. He’s good enough to start for a mid-range team, but can he take over the Iowa job and push out a veteran like Rudock? Will the offense have to go to a two quarterback system? This is a decent team returning, but it won’t go anywhere in the Big Ten West if it doesn’t settle the most important position.

4. What’s next for Iowa
Iowa has plenty of positives and lots of good things to work around, but it has to be far more consistent offensively. Jake Rudock is back for another year at quarterback, but C.J. Beathard was the far better performer in the bowl loss to Tennessee. They need Jordan Canzeri to turn into a main man at running back – or someone else has to step up. The line can’t replace LT Brandon Scherff, and it also loses two other starters. Leading rusher Mark Weisman is gone along with Damon Bullock, and leading target Kevonte Martin-Manley is gone, too. The offense has to find new targets and new playmakers for Rudock to work with.

The defense doesn’t have to undergo the overhaul it did this last offseason when the whole linebacking corps was gone, but three of the top four tacklers are done including Louis Trinca-Pasat up front. Jordan Lomax is a good free safety to start with, and Desmond King is certainly a keeper at corner, but SS John Lowdermilk has to be replaced. The interior is the big issue with Carl Davis gone with Trinca-Pasat, but Drew Ott and Nate Meier are back on the outside. The linebacking corps should be fine despite the loss of Quinton Alston in the middle. Dillon Kidd is back at punter, but he needs to average more than 40 yards per pop, and PK Marshall Koehn returns after a decent year.

5. What’s next for Tennessee
After years and years and years of seemingly being a year away, Tennessee should be loaded coming into 2015 with Joshua Dobbs a rising superstar at quarterback and with just about everyone returning. Jalen Hurd is a terrific young running back, and all of Dobbs’ top receiving weapons are gone. There was just one senior starter – RT Jacob Gilliam – for the Iowa game. Every receiver is back, and while Marlin Lane is gone, the running game should be stellar.

The defense might have lost A.J. Johnson late in the year, but now it knows what life is like without him. Three of the top four starters are back on the line, only losing DT Jordan Williams, and the linebacking corps should be outstanding led by Jalen Reeves-Maybin as its new star. The secondary has playmakers with three starters likely to return and only corner Justin Coleman gone – Brian Randolph should be among the SEC’s top-tackling safeties. PK Aaron Medley had a nice first year and should be ultra-reliable, but Matt Darr is gone after averaging close to 43 yards per punt.


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