Jonathon Hodges went a little nuts with his 2009 Outback Bowl preview, so we are going to break down the bare bones and give you the gritty details.
Northwestern (8-4, 5-3) will play on New Year’s Day for just the fourth time in school history as the Wildcats travel to Tampa Bay, Florida to face off against the Auburn Tigers (7-5, 3-5) in the Outback Bowl.
Yes, the same Outback Bowl that has snubbed Northwestern twice this decade (2000 and 2008), but decided to take the Wildcats over Wisconsin (9-3) this year.
The Outback Bowl, the first college football game of the new decade, presents an intriguing matchup of offenses that can put up some big numbers and defenses that can take care of business when necessary.
Don’t let Auburn’s record fool you, though. The Tigers’ five losses all came against Bowl-bound SEC teams.
Northwestern is playing their best football of the season, having beaten two nationally-ranked squads in the last three games. They are ending the regular season by winning four of their final five contests.
The national media has already begun writing off the Wildcats, but they should be a more mature team than the one that lost to Missouri last year. Expect a close, hard-fought battle, and don’t count out Northwestern to win this one.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof was the DC last season for Minnesota where he watched Wildcats’ QB Mike Kafka torch the Gophers with his feet. Northwestern took the game and started a five-game Minnesota slide that ended in Roof’s dismissal.
Auburn will be returning to the Bowl scene after missing out on the festivities with a 5-7 record last year for the first time in eight seasons.
Northwestern, meanwhile, is headed to consecutive bowl games for just the second time in school history. The program will be looking to earn just the second Bowl win in school history and the first since the 1949 Rose Bowl.
Northwestern’s all-time Bowl record is 1-6, while Auburn’s is 19-13-2. The Cats have never appeared in the Outback Bowl, while Auburn sports a 1-1 record in the game, returning to Tampa Bay in Bowl season for the first time since 1996.
Opening Line: Auburn by 8.
Who Should Win: It’s a toss-up.
The line seems kind of high since Northwestern is playing its best football of the season on both sides of the ball, and the Tigers have shown some vulnerability against a strong passing attack.
This looks to be a rather evenly-matched game. The Wildcats will need to play solid defense, particularly against the run and a varied and effective offensive attack designed by Gus Malzahn.
Expect this game to come down to just a couple of plays, and whichever team gets those plays to go in their favor will come out as the victor.
Read Jonathon’s article for a breakdown of how each side of the ball stacks up with their opponent, it’s a great read if you plan on betting on this game.