JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tennessee, the SEC team in this year's TaxSlayer Bowl, is just happy to be playing anywhere in January. The Big 10 invite, Iowa, is looking at the game in Jacksonville as possible redemption on 7-5 season that ended with two painful losses.
That was the tone of remarks Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and Tennessee coach Butch Jones made a media gathering in Jacksonville on Thursday.
The first question for Ferentz was where Hawkeyes football stood after a tough year.
"When you finish a season like that, it's a little bit disappointing, certainly," Ferentz said. "We got back on the field and had two workouts last weekend. I think our players have really bounced back ... Hopefully we'll be a team that shows up and looks like they're well coached and plays extremely hard."
UNCUT: Coaches receive official invite, answer questions
Ferentz noted that Iowa has two starters from Florida -- quarterback Jake Rudock, from Weston, and cornerback Greg Mabin, of Fort Lauderdale -- and a game in the Sunshine State on national television could be good for recruiting.
While the January 2 matchup in will be Ferentz's 12th bowl game in 16 years, the Volunteers will be playing in their first preseason game since 2010. Tennessee fields among the youngest teams in the national -- playing 21 true freshmen this season.
"The practices are invaluable for developing the young players," Jones said. "When you play an inordinate amount of freshmen -- we don't have the luxury right now of redshirting."
Both coaches said they called emergency team meetings Sunday night to tell the players they would be playing in a January bowl game in Florida.
This will be Iowa's second visit to a post-season game that for most of its 70 years been known as the Gator Bowl -- the last time in 1983 where the Hawkeyes lost to the University of Florida.
This the Volunteer's sixth visit to the Gator Bowl; last in 1994 with a win over Virginia Tech in a game played at Florida Field as Jacksonville's stadium was being overhauled into an NFL stadium.
In addition to meeting TaxSlayer Bowl officials and sponsors Thursday, the two coaches were presented keys to the city by Mayor Alvin Brown.