The Big Ten Iowa Hawkeyes will face off against the SEC Tennessee Volunteers in the 2014-15 TaxSlayer Bowl (formerly the Gator Bowl). The Volunteers had an even 6-6 record on the season, taking on numerous ranked opponents including the Oklahoma Sooners, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Missouri Tigers, the Ole Miss Rebels and the Georgia Bulldogs. With that type of schedule, the Volunteers are likely well prepared to go up against the 7-5 Hawkeyes. Due to the restructuring of the Big Ten, Iowa may have had what some call an easier road in the conference this season, as the Hawkeyes neither played the Michigan State Spartans nor the Ohio State Buckeyes.
However, the Hawkeyes did face back-to-back challenges at the season's end, dealing with defeats coming from the Wisconsin Badgers and an overtime loss to the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Although, going into the TaxSlayer Bowl, Iowa brings a squad rich in experience, whereas Tennessee is relying on a relatively young team. Both the Hawkeyes and the Volunteers boast tough defenses, which could result in an intense, low scoring game that comes down to the wire.
Offensively, Tennessee has lost four wide receivers this season due to injury, the latest being Jason Croom. The sophomore has four touchdown receptions and 21 catches on the season, and was sure to be a difference maker in this bowl game before injuring his knee during practice. Both teams will likely rely heavily on running the ball, especially in a close fourth quarter situation. Iowa has struggled in the fourth quarter this season, and keeping the ball to the ground will help the Hawkeyes swallow up necessary clock time.
All in all, the Hawkeyes have more experience from upperclassmen that could make all the difference on the field. Yet, the energy of a young Tennessee team that's been beat up by the SEC might be more than Iowa can handle. A signature win in the TaxSlayer Bowl would give the Volunteers momentum going into the next season, and develop a team that's still learning to be cohesive.
The 2014-15 TaxSlayer Bowl
The 2014-15 TaxSlayer Bowl takes place at EverBank Field in Jackson, Florida on Jan. 2, 2015 at 3:20 p.m. ET. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and tickets are still available. Other bowl games on January 2 included the Cactus Bowl, Valero Alamo Bowl and Armed Forces Bowl.
The Wisconsin Badgers will take on the Auburn Tigers in the 2014-15 Outback Bowl, seeking redemption after a brutal 59-0 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship at the end of the 2014 season. Wisconsin, boasts a 10-3 record, ranking No. 18 in the College Football Playoff rankings, just above the 8-4 Tigers. However, don't let Auburn's record fool you, because all of the Tigers' losses have come against difficult opponents like Georgia, Mississippi State and the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
This year's Outback Bowl is anticipated to be a game played on the ground, as Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards and will likely want to prove himself before entering the NFL draft. Though only a fourth-year junior, Gordon recently announced his intentions to go pro, and the Outback Bowl will serve as a close to his tenure as a Wisconsin Badger.
Auburn, on the other hand, has running back Cameron Artis-Payne, a senior who boasts over 1,400 rushing yards this season. Artis-Payne leads the SEC and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award. Quarterback Nick Marshall is also a senior, and both players will surely be giving it their all as they look to raise their worth come draft time.
Both teams will soon be facing transitions in coaching staff. Wisconsin's head coach Gary Andersen announced that he will officially be moving across the country to take over at Oregon State, which recently lost coach Mike Riley to Nebraska. Meanwhile, Auburn has hired defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, though coach Gus Malzahn announced that Muschamp will not be in charge of the defense during the Outback Bowl.
New Year's Day bowl games
The 2014-15 Outback Bowl is scheduled to take place on Jan. 1, 2015 at noon ET. The bowl will be played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The game will be televised on ESPN2 and begins half an hour before the Michigan State Spartans and Baylor Bears face off at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. In general, New Year's Day is slated to be one that will go down in college football history, as the inaugural semifinal playoff games both take place later in the evening. The Oregon Ducks will take on the undefeated Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl (5 p.m. ET) and the No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will face off against the Big Ten champions the Ohio State Buckeyes (8:30 p.m. ET).
In this year's 2014-15 Rose Bowl, the University of Oregon Ducks take on the undefeated Florida State Seminoles for a chance to play in the National Championship. The winner will go up against the winner of the Allstate Sugar Bowl, in which the No.1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Both games take place on New Year's Day, Jan. 1, 2015, along with the Cotton Bowl, Citrus Bowl and Outback Bowl. The Oregon Ducks are ranked No. 2 by the College Football Playoff selection committee with a record of 12-1. Despite having a better 13-0 record, the Seminoles earned a No. 3 ranking by the same committee.
The match up will showcase the talent of two of the NCAA's most promising quarterbacks, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. Both stars are Heisman Trophy candidates, although Winston already received the prestigious accolade in 2013 after the Seminoles won a National Championship to finish a 14-0 season. Of course, while the spotlight often is directed at the quarterback, both teams have versatile squads that make them so successful. Though Oregon is the favorite to win, Florida State are currently on a 28 game win streak and have not seen a loss since Winston started his run as the Seminoles' quarterback. A Rose Bowl victory for either team will mean competing in the CFP National Championship at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Jan. 12, 2015.
The 2014-15 Rose Bowl
The Rose Bowl annually takes place in Pasadena, California in the stadium by the same name. With the introduction of the playoff system this year, the Rose Bowl will be host to a CFP semifinal game once every three years, in rotation with five other bowl games. In future off years, it will revert to a match between Big Ten and Pac-12 teams. Dating back to 1902, the Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game in the country and has always been a final destination for teams in the Big 10 and former Pac-10 (Pac-12 since 2011). With over 100 years of tradition, the Rose Bowl truly is "The Granddaddy of Them All." However, in the 2014-15 season, the Rose Bowl has instead become a stopping point, and either team will likely celebrate and then begin preparing for the National Championship.