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Three Keys: Tennessee Looking To End Season With Win Over Iowa

Tennessee Football Vol Walk
Tennessee Football Vol Walk. Photo by RTI.

Tennessee football concludes its season on Monday afternoon as they face No. 17 Iowa in the 2024 Cheez-It Citrus Bowl. The Vols are looking for a strong performance from freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava and to conclude the season with a 9-4 (4-4 SEC) record.

Here’s three keys for Tennessee to know off Iowa.

Start Fast

The first key is less imperative then the other two and is a difficult task given the fact that the Vols are starting a true freshman quarterback and a myriad of other underclassmen for the first time.

But if Tennessee can start fast and build an early lead it would seriously change the dynamic of the game and put the Vols in a very strong position to earn a bowl win.

Boasting one of the nation’s worst passing attacks, Iowa is not built to play from behind. Putting the Hawkeyes on their heels could be good enough to win the game if Tennessee doesn’t make a multitude of mistakes themselves.

The one reason to believe that Tennessee might truly be able to start fast and jump on the Hawkeyes early is its style of play. Josh Heupel’s high pace offense has jumped on teams who haven’t seen it frequently in his three years at Tennessee. And Iowa has seen nothing similar to the Vols’ offense all season while playing in the Big 10 west.

More From RTI: See Tennessee-Iowa Game Line As Kickoff Approaches

Avoid Turnovers

Iowa won 10 games this season with such a putrid offense because they’ve capitalized on opponents mistakes and have played strong complementary football.

Facing a quarterback making his first career start, Iowa will surely put a high emphasis on trying to confuse Iamaleava and force him into a few bad or careless decisions. While everyone wants to see the exciting and splashy plays from Iamaleava because he has the talent, it will be far more important for him to make the simple plays and avoid the big mistakes.

Not only is it important for Tennessee to avoid turning the ball over, it’s more important for the Vols to avoid turnovers that take points off the board for them or set up Iowa for easy points themselves.

Iowa’s offense has struggled to score all season. Tennessee making them earn everything they get and not handing them anything easy is crucial to earning a victory.

Create Chunk Plays

One of the main reasons why Iowa’s defense has been so good this season is that they haven’t given up big plays. Its one of the best defenses in the country at avoiding splash plays, especially in the run game where they haven’t given up a single run over 30 yards all season.

The vast majority of big plays that Tennessee have created this season have been on the run game and that’s the challenge that they face against the Hawkeyes.

Through the air or on the ground, Tennessee’s ability to create some chunk plays will be huge in this game. Squirrel White and Dylan Sampson become two of the Vols’ most important offensive players in this game because of their impressive abilities to create big plays.

With top running backs Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small, as well as potentially a couple starting offensive linemen out, it will be challenging for the Vols to sustain long drives. That makes creating explosive plays all the more important.

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