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Iowa vs. Tennessee: Picks, best bets for Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Monday

The Hawkeyes meet the Volunteers in Orlando on New Years Day.

2023 Big Ten Championship - Iowa v Michigan Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Steve Spurrier famously once said “you can’t spell Citrus without UT,” and the No. 25 Tennessee Volunteers once again return to Orlando for the Citrus Bowl on Monday, January 1. They will face the No. 20 Iowa Hawkeyes, the Big Ten’s 2023 runners-up. Iowa’s offense was the stuff of infamy this season, but their defense confounded and frustrated teams to a point that got the Hawkeyes to Indianapolis on the first weekend of December.

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. ET from Camping World Stadium on New Years Day.

Iowa (10-3, 7-2 B1G) fired offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz partway through the season, much to fans’ relief. The Hawkeyes defense has been severely struggling throughout the last several years, and this year was no different — the team averaged just 16.6 points per game — and even fewer offensive points. However, Iowa saved themselves and put together a 10-win season with victories over Rutgers, Illinois, and Purdue thanks to their stellar defense. The Hawkeyes allowed just 13.2 points and 274.2 yards to opponents per game. Their losses came against Michigan State, Penn State, and Michigan.

Tennessee (8-4, 4-4 SEC) will be playing without quarterback Joe Milton in the bowl game, as well as their two top running backs, Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright. All three will be heading to the 2024 NFL Draft. Freshman Nico Iamaleava will get his first start in the bowl game. The Vols had a solid season, though something of a drop-down from their 2022. They grabbed wins over Texas A&M, South Carolina, and Kentucky, and fell to Missouri, Georgia, and Alabama.

Here’s everything you need to know and a pick for the bowl.

SP+ Rankings

Iowa: 36 overall, 127 offense, 2 defense
Tennessee: 19 overall, 28 offense, 31 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game

Iowa

WR Diante Vines - Out (transfer portal)
QB Spencer Petras - Out (transfer portal)
QB Joey Labas - Out (transfer portal)

Tennessee

RB Jabari Small - Out (draft)
RB Jaylen Wright- Out (draft)
QB Joe Milton - Out (draft)

ATS/Total

Against The Spread in 2023

Iowa: 6-6-1 ATS
Tennessee: 6-6 ATS

Total in 2023

Iowa: Over 2-11
Tennessee: Over 6-5-1

Team Pace

Iowa: 29.1 seconds per play
Tennessee: 21 seconds per play

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Tennessee -6
Total: 35.5
Moneyline: Tennessee -238, Iowa +195

Weather

66°F, Partly cloud, 1% chance of rain, 8 MPH winds

Our Best Bet for the Citrus Bowl

Under 35.5

It’s Iowa — we simply must bet the under! No, really — the Hawkeyes’ offense is the Hawkeyes’ offense, and Tennessee’s defense has been solid this year, so we don’t expect many points from Iowa’s side. If Milton, Small, or Wright were playing, this might be different, but since the Vols will be taking the field without three of their top offensive players, we’re betting on Iowa’s defense to keep yet another game low-scoring.