Tennessee has won five-straight games and six of their last seven contests while Indiana ended the regular season with a victory and has emerged triumphant in five of their last seven games. Both teams finished with winning records in their respective conferences, and both have turned in solid seasons after 5-7 seasons last year.
All of that has led Vegas to believe this year’s match-up between the Vols and Hoosiers will be a close one.
It was announced on Sunday that Tennessee and Indiana will play each other in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on January 2nd down in Jacksonville, Florida. And as of right now, neither team is favored over the other.
According to Circa Sports, an online betting site, the Tennessee-Indiana game has opened up as a pick ’em, essentially meaning the TaxSlayer Bowl is too close to call at this point and is a toss-up. The over/under total point line has been set at 51.5 points.
Tennessee and Indiana haven’t played on the football field since 1988 when the two played in the Peach Bowl to end the 1987 season. The Vols defeated the Hoosiers 27-23 that season to cap off a 10-2-1 campaign.
This year, the Vols began the season with an 0-2 record after losing to Georgia State and BYU. Tennessee fell to 1-4 after defeating UT-Chattanooga but then losing in blowout fashion to Florida and Georgia.
Bowl hopes seemed dashed for UT, but then the unthinkable happened.
The Vols defeated Mississippi State 20-10 for their first FBS victory in almost a year, and after falling 35-13 on the road to Alabama, Tennessee hasn’t lost a game since. The Vols have won five-straight games and finished the regular season with a 7-5 mark, the best regular season record since Tennessee finished 8-4 in 2016 (before a Music City Bowl victory improved that record to 9-4).
As for Indiana, the Hoosiers are in the midst of their best season in several decades.
The Hoosiers began the season 3-2 and with a 51-10 loss to Ohio State and a 40-31 loss to Michigan State. But Indiana rattled off four-straight wins to improve to 7-2 and grabbed the No. 24 spot in the AP Poll, marking the first time the Hoosiers had been ranked since 1988. A 34-27 loss to Penn State knocked Indiana out of the polls, though, and the Hoosiers fell 39-14 to Michigan the following week. Indiana closed out the regular season with a 44-41 double-overtime win over Purdue to improve to 8-4, their best record since going 8-4 in 1993.
Indiana’s 8-4 season this year is their first year above .500 since finishing 7-6 in 2007, and it’s only the Hoosiers’ third season above .500 since 1994. But Indiana hasn’t exactly played a murder’s row to get here.
The Hoosiers have lost to every team on their schedule that finished with a 6-6 or better record this season. The eight teams Indiana has beaten this season have a combined record of 24-60. The four teams Indiana lost to — Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan — are a combined 38-11 on the year.
Tennessee hasn’t beaten a bunch of juggernauts this season either, but the Vols at least had four of their six wins vs. FBS teams come against teams with bowl eligible records (Missouri finished 6-6 but will not be in a bowl game due to sanctions handed down by the NCAA).
The Vols and Hoosiers will kick-off at 7:00 PM Eastern on January 2nd in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.