JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Tennessee football coach Butch Jones traditionally hosts more than 250 people at his home for a football family barbecue each summer.
He also invites someone to provide entertainment. His most recent guest was country and western songwriter Casey Beathard.
"He did a great job," Jones said. "Who would have thought we'd be in this game?"
Tennessee meets Iowa in Friday's TaxSlayer Bowl. Beathard's son, C.J., is a redshirt sophomore quarterback at Iowa. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said this week that Jake Rudock will start, but Beathard will also see action in the first half against Jones' team.
Rudock has taken a majority of the snaps this season, so preparing for Beathard has been a bit of a challenge for the Tennessee coaching staff.
"You try to study as much film as you can," Jones said. "Obviously, we're very limited in that. But at the end of the day, we feel Iowa is going to do what they do. They'll have some new wrinkles, some new trick plays, some different play-actions and some different things for the bowl season like everyone. But at the end of the day, they're going to do what they do, because they do it well."
The passion and energy is evident in the second-year Vols coach.
Casey Beathard told the Nashville Tennessean newspaper last week that his son's future at Iowa will be determined by what happens in the bowl game. C.J. Beathard is a redshirt sophomore.
During his performance at the Jones home last summer, Casey shared with the Tennessee coach some the experiences his son had had at Iowa.
"He's (Casey) turned into a good friend," Jones said.
Ticket numbers: Rick Catlett, president and CEO of the TaxSlayer Bowl, said Wednesday he expects a crowd of just over 60,000 for Friday's game in 70,000-seat EverBank Field, home to the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We're looking at sales of about 61,000 to 62,000," Catlett said. "We're right where we normally are."
Playing in its first bowl game since 2010, Tennessee sold its allotment of 8,000 tickets in a matter of hours. Iowa only sold about half of its allotment.
"I read something about ticket sales being a little slow at home," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "If they were slow, they were really slow in 2012, I can tell you that."
Iowa sold only 4,000 or so tickets out of its obligation of 8,000. The Hawkeyes did not reach a bowl game after going 4-8 in 2012.
Iowa went 4-8 and didn't go to a bowl in 2012. This is the 12th time Ferentz has taken a team to a bowl games in his 16 seasons as Iowa's head coach.
Weisman healthy: Mark Weisman, Iowa's senior running back, declared himself healthy for his final game as a Hawkeye. The former fullback was slowed by injuries the previous two years, but got a reduced workload this fall.
"If you're not sore, you're probably not playing very much," Weisman said. "It's the life of a running back."
The Iowa running back is preparing for his final game as a Hawkeye.
On who his heir apparent will be, Weisman sees LeShun Daniels Jr. — who missed the final five games of the regular season after ankle surgery — as Iowa's 2015 guy in short-yardage situations. Ferentz has said Daniels, a 6-foot, 230-pound sophomore, would play against Tennessee.
"He's getting back to where he was," Weisman said. "He's looked good this bowl prep so far."
Bowl gifts: Players for both teams were each awarded a commemorative watch and $450 worth of credit to purchase any Panasonic products, such as televisions. The NCAA allows a $550 allowance per player for bowl gifts.