When Tennessee and Indiana face-off in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on January 2, 2020, it will actually be the second time the two teams have played each other in a bowl game.
The Vols and Hoosiers played each other in the Peach Bowl on January 2, 1988, marking exactly 32 years to the exact day between match-ups for the two programs. Tennessee defeated Indiana 27-22 in a compelling contest back in 1988. The Vols led 21-3 in the second quarter and held a 21-10 halftime lead. The Hoosiers would rally, though, and they grabbed a 22-21 lead in the fourth. It took a defensive stand and a Reggie Cobb nine-yard touchdown run to give Tennessee the victory to finish the year 10-2-1.
Thus far, that’s been the only time Tennessee and Indiana have played each other in football. In less than four weeks, the two teams will face-off for only the second time ever.
For both Tennessee and Indiana, this year’s Gator Bowl marks the first time since 2016 that either program has made it to a bowl game. For the Vols, getting back to postseason play is a sigh of relief after a 1-4 start to the season and missing out on a bowl appearance in six of the previous 11 seasons. For Indiana, this year’s bowl appearance comes as a rarity for the Hoosier program.
This season’s Gator Bowl is Indiana’s third bowl appearance in the last five years, but it’s only the Hoosiers’ 12th bowl game in their school’s history.
Indiana and Tennessee have had a football program at their respective universities for nearly the same period of time (Indiana’s first season was 1887, Tennessee’s was 1891). Yet the two programs couldn’t be more different when it comes to postseason history.
Tennessee’s first bowl appearance came in the 1939 Orange Bowl, a 17-0 victory for UT over Oklahoma. As for Indiana? Their first bowl game didn’t come until the 1968 Rose Bowl to cap off the 1967 season. The Hoosiers lost 14-3 to the OJ Simpson-led Trojans.
UT’s bowl history is rivaled only by Alabama and Georgia in the SEC. This year’s Gator Bowl will be the Vols’ 53rd bowl appearance in program history, which is in the top 10 all-time in FBS history. Indiana, on the other hand, has only made it to a bowl game 12 times.
The Vols have earned a 28-24 all-time record in bowl games, and UT made a bowl game for 16-straight seasons from 1989 through 2004. Indiana is 3-8 all-time in their previous 11 bowl appearances, and their longest streak of making it to the postseason in consecutive years is three (1986-88).
Tennessee is currently riding a three-game winning streak in bowl appearances, winning all three of their bowl games from 2014-16. Indiana hasn’t won a bowl game since 1991, a 24-0 victory over Baylor in the Copper Bowl. The Hoosiers have gone 0-4 in their bowl appearances since then.
For the Vols, this year’s match-up with Indiana will mark the fourth-straight bowl game in which UT has been matched up with a Big Ten opponent. It marks the 24th time the Vols will play a team that is currently a member of the Big Ten, and UT is 12-11 all-time against current Big Ten teams in bowl games.
Indiana, meanwhile, is 1-2 all-time vs. teams currently in the SEC in bowl games, losing to Tennessee and Auburn in bowl match-ups but beating South Carolina.
This year will mark the seventh time the Vols have played in the Gator Bowl. Tennessee is 4-2 all-time in the Jacksonville-based bowl game, and UT has won two-straight appearances in the Gator Bowl. This year’s Gator Bowl appearance will bring the Gator Bowl into a tie with the Sugar Bowl for the bowl game Tennessee has been to the most. This will mark Indiana’s first-ever appearance in the Gator Bowl.
History means little when two teams actually take the field and play each other, but it’s clear that Tennessee and Indiana are leagues apart when it comes postseason success in football.