The scoring averages, for instance, are virtually identical. Tennessee averaged 27.6 points per game this fall; Iowa averaged 28.2. Tennessee allowed 23.9 points per game, Iowa 24.0.
The Hawkeyes threw the ball 406 times, completing 250 for a 61.6 percent success rate. The Vols threw the ball 431 times, completing 264 for a 61.3 percent clip.
Tennessee averaged 363.0 total yards per game, Iowa 398.3. The Hawkeyes were a bit more productive throwing the ball (242 yards per game versus 228) and a little more productive running the ball (156.3 yards per game versus 135.0).
Both teams were remarkably clean in 2014. Iowa was flagged for just 42 penalties and 347 yards. Tennessee was penalized 50 times for 389 yards.
The Hawkeyes did a better job converting on third down (46 percent to 39 percent) but the two programs were roughly equal in third-down conversion defense. Iowa allowed opponents to convert 37 percent of the time, Tennessee 35.
The Vols recorded far more sacks (35 to 26) but also surrendered far more sacks (42 to 23).
Both teams got quality work from their place-kickers. Tennessee connected on 19 of 25 field-goal attempts (76.0 percent), Iowa 12 of 17 (70.6 percent).
The Vols were considerably more efficient in red-zone offense, scoring on 92 percent (45 of 49), compared to Iowa’s 79 percent (41 of 52) but neither team accomplished much in terms of red-zone defense. Tennessee allowed its foes to score 97 percent (29 of 30) of the time; Iowa foes cashed in 88 percent (28 of 32) of the time.
The teams were similar in terms of red-zone touchdowns. Tennessee scored 29 times in 49 chances for a 59-percent success rate. Iowa scored on 33 of 52 for a 63-percent rate.
Both Tennessee and Iowa are in down phases. Since winning 10 games in 2007, the Vols have gone 5-7, 7-6, 6-7, 5-7, 5-7, 5-7 and 6-6 the past seven years. Since posting 11 wins in 2009, the Hawkeyes have gone 8-5, 7-6, 4-8, 8-5 and 7-5.
There are some individual similarities in the TaxSlayer Bowl matchup, as well. Consider:
Tennessee’s leading rusher was Jalen Hurd with 777 net yards. Iowa’s leader was Mark Weisman with 802. Hurd posted a much better yards-per-carry average (4.5 to 3.9) but Weisman was better at finding the end zone (14 touchdowns to 3 for Hurd).
Both teams feature mobile quarterbacks. The Vols’ Joshua Dobbs averaged 4.3 yards per carry on his way to 393 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns. The Hawkeyes’ Jake Rudock averaged 2.4 per carry on his way to 154 yards and 3 TDs. Dobbs completed 61.5 percent of his passes for an average of 215.4 yards per game. Rudock completed 62.6 percent for 218.5 yards per game. Dobbs posted a passer-efficiency rating of 130.0, Rudock 135.2.
The Vols haven’t played in a bowl game since the 2010 Music City Bowl and haven’t played in a January Bowl since the 2007 Outback Bowl. Naturally, being back in postseason action has Tennessee’s athletics director smiling.
"Playing in a New Year's bowl game is a tremendous reward for our coaching staff, players, alumni and fans," Dave Hart said in a release. "I am especially pleased for our seniors. We are honored and appreciative to be invited to such a historic bowl venue."
Tennessee’s head coach is appreciative, as well.
"The opportunity to play in the TaxSlayer Bowl represents a tremendous opportunity for our football program," Butch Jones said in the same release. "The chance to return to a New Year's bowl game in Florida represents another significant step for our program, and we are excited to play against a quality opponent in Iowa. We are looking forward to the game, and I am sure that Vol Nation will be well-represented in Jacksonville on January 2."
This will be Tennessee’s sixth appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl, formerly known as the Gator Bowl. The Vols beat Texas A&M 3-0 in 1957, beat Syracuse 18-12 in 1966, lost to Florida 14-13 in 1969, lost to Texas Tech 28-19 in 1973, then beat Virginia Tech 45-23 in 1994 (played in Gainesville, rather than Jacksonville). The Big Orange has not played in the bowl since its name change.
Tennessee and Iowa have met just twice previously. The Hawkeyes beat the Vols 28-22 in the 1982 Peach Bowl but the Vols returned the favor in the 1987 Kickoff Classic, prevailing 23-22.
Hart, Jones discuss TaxSlayer Bowl