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Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee Expert Pick and Prediction – January 1, 2024

Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee Expert Pick and Prediction – January 1, 2024

CITRUS BOWL: IOWA VS. TENNESSEE EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – January 1, 2024 — The long nightmare of Iowa football trying to play offense is almost over. The Hawkeyes’ much-hyped “Drive for 325” managed to come up over 100 points short despite Iowa getting to play a 13th game. For the year, Iowa scored just 216 points, got shut out twice and played seven games where they didn’t manage to hit the 20-point mark.

The Brian Ferentz era ends with a game against a Tennessee team that was just kind of there this season. The Volunteers had one pratfall against a bad Florida team, but otherwise managed to beat the teams they should while losing to the teams stronger than they were. They don’t really do anything special on either side of the football, and they’ll debut a new look with Joe Milton opting out of the bowl game.

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And that leads to yet another low total involving Iowa. Phil Parker’s defenses have dominated many a quarterback, at least until they collapse under the weight of a useless offense. The Hawkeyes didn’t give up more than 26 points to anyone but Penn State all season, and the Nittany Lions got 21 of 31 points in the second half.

With Nico Iamaleava making his first career start for the Vols, there’s every reason to believe in the defenses on both sides of the ball.

The Odds

Matchup Open Spread Points Moneyline

(10-3 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) 

O35.5 +6.5 O35.5 +195

(8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) 

-7.5 -6.5 U35.5 -235


When: Monday, January 1 at 1 p.m. EST

Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.


Public Bets: 73% on Iowa

Public Money: 64% on Iowa

Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 30th, 2023.

Iowa vs. Tennessee In-Season Trends

It’s pretty amazing, but Iowa actually managed to go 2-11 to the over all season, only hitting the number against Michigan State and Western Michigan. And even the Michigan State game barely made it, as it required a Spartan pick-6 off Iowa’s offense to go over the total. The Hawkeyes have been so inept on offense and so good on defense that they’ve had two games (Nebraska and Rutgers) with a total set in the 20s and cashed the under on both of them.

Tennessee’s magic number is 21. When the Volunteers get to it, they’re 8-0. When they don’t, they’re 0-4. Not surprisingly, the Vols have played to the under in three of their four defeats.

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The one exception was Alabama, and that only because the Vols started fast before collapsing in the second half and letting the Tide turn the game around. If Tennessee puts points on the board, it has a big edge.


Temperatures shouldn’t be a problem here. The teams will enjoy 68 degree weather with no wind or rain in the forecast, exactly what you hope for with a bowl game.

The Difference-Makers

Nico Iamaleava makes the first start of his college career against Phil Parker’s stingy defense. (Photo by Angelina Alcantar/Knoxville News Sentinel)

Having Jay Higgins around will help the Iowa defense tremendously. Higgins leads the Iowa defense with 155 tackles, and it isn’t even close. The Hawkeyes will have to play outstanding defense to have a chance, and Higgins makes that far more likely.

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With Jaylen Wright also gone as an opt-out, Dylan Sampson gets the start as the main running back for Tennessee. He’s going to have to put up some big yards early to take the pressure off Iamaleava. If the Hawkeyes can slow down the Vols’ ground game, Tennessee is in trouble.

The Pick

Iowa hasn’t moved the ball all year and isn’t likely to start now. But the Hawkeyes have a big edge in the first half because Tennessee is likely to struggle with a new quarterback. Historically, teams take their time to get used to a Phil Parker defense, and that gives Iowa a chance in the early going.

I don’t want to play a full-game spread with this squad. Instead, I’ll gamble on the first half and get out.

Dan’s Picks  

 Under 35.5

 Iowa +3.5 1H

 First Half Under 17.5   


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