Citrus Bowl Predictions & Odds | Iowa vs Tennessee

Last Updated: Dec 20, 2023

No. 17 Iowa and No. 21 Tennessee may have come up just short in the quest for the New Year’s Six, but both still have plenty to play for as they look to cap off the season with a win in this year’s Citrus Bowl.

It will be quite the clash of styles as high-paced Tennessee squares up with an Iowa team that is defense-first, to say the least. The NCAAF odds favor the Volunteers, but this Iowa team, with or without a functional offense, has been a surprise in the past. It’s more than capable of making this a real ballgame.

With just one more game to go in what has been a fascinating season for both sides, read on for Iowa Hawkeyes vs Tennessee Volunteers college football picks and predictions for this year’s Cheez-It Citrus Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. ET.

Iowa vs Tennessee Odds

Track our latest CFB odds for Hawkeyes vs Volunteers:

NCAAF lines used for Iowa vs Tennessee were current as of Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 11:45 a.m. ET on DraftKings Sportsbook.

  • Moneyline: Tennessee (-360) • Iowa (+285)
  • Spread: Tennessee 8.5 (-110) • Iowa +8.5 (-110)
  • Total Points: Over 36 (-115) • Under 36 (-105)

As expected, it’s another extremely low total for an Iowa game, but can the Hawkeyes do it again and hit the Under? The spread is just a bit broader than a touchdown, an interesting number as Iowa seems to have a major overall transfer portal and health edge, but Tennessee will have its starting quarterback ready to go.

Iowa vs Tennessee Prediction

SCORE PICK: Tennessee 16, Iowa 9

Has there ever been a harder team to evaluate than Iowa? It went 10-2 and won the Big Ten West, but its offense is bottom-five in all of FBS by just about any metric. It slowed down the Michigan offense as effectively as anyone all year, including Ohio State and Penn State, but still lost an uncompetitive 26-0 game in the Big Ten Championship.

EPA per play says it all – Iowa’s offense ranks No. 131, while its defense is No. 3. In theory, that all adds up to an approximately average team, but you can’t win if you can’t score, and Iowa’s defense has done enough to allow it to win games by scores like 10-7, 15-6, and 15-13.

Conversely, Tennessee has been a pretty offense-first group, and a fast one too. It’s third in the country in pace of play, averaging a lightning-fast 21 seconds per snap.

The Joe Milton experiment has yielded some mixed results, but with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions, he’s been much more productive than he was at Michigan, where he actually never played Iowa.

Of course, in today’s version of college football, we have to take a look at the transfer portal and opt-outs. Iowa will be missing the best player in this game, although it’s due to injury, as superstar cornerback Cooper DeJean will not be available. Iowa could have issues with Tennessee’s mostly-intact pass catching group.

The Volunteers’ defense took a serious hit via the portal and injuries, but will it matter against Iowa? The answer is, kind of.

Tennessee should be able to win this one, but Iowa’s defense will allow it to hang around, as it has all year.

Iowa vs Tennessee Best Bets

Iowa +8.5 (-110)

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

The only teams who have run away from Iowa this year are Michigan and Penn State, and Tennessee is not on that level, to say the least. For starters, its quarterback is a Wolverines castoff.

With motivation likely not particularly high for either team, this could be a lethargic contest, and Iowa will have absolutely no issue with that. It’ll take a game that goes at a slower pace than most Tennessee performances this year.

Under 36 (-105)

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Few trends have been kinder to sports bettors this year than Iowa Unders. The Hawkeyes have only hit a pair of Overs this year, and none since September ended. The offense, since the injury to quarterback Cade McNamara, quite literally cannot do anything, while the defense continues to be a juggernaut.

As for Tennessee, the offense was fine this year, but lacks the explosion we saw a year ago with Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt running the show. Iowa’s defense is well-rounded, ranking ninth in EPA against the pass and third against the run, so there’s no clear path forward for offenses that fall below the tier of truly elite.

Iowa vs Tennessee Same-Game Parlay

Iowa vs Tennessee SGP (+144)

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

  • Tennessee (-360)
  • Under 36 (-105)

This game won’t be until after the New Year, so we don’t have too many options, but it’s an Iowa game – the Under is a must-play. Let’s pair it with the fairly-safe Tennessee moneyline to boost this two-leg play into plus-odds.


William Schwartz

As a former athlete and lifetime fan, sports have always been a huge part of my life. I've written about them for almost as long as I've been watching and playing them, from a blog I wrote with a friend in middle school, to journalism classes at the University of Michigan, to today. I hope to bring you entertaining coverage, strong analysis, and profitable betting picks on any and all sports, whether it's MLB baseball, college football, European soccer, or anything in between.

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