(19) Auburn Tigers (-6.5, 63.5 o/u) vs. (18) Wisconsin Badgers
The 2014 edition of the Outback Bowl will pit the SEC’s Auburn Tigers against the Big Ten’s Wisconsin Badgers. The game is on New Year’s Day at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (12:00 p.m. Eastern).
The Tigers finished 8-4 on the season, but dropped three of their last four games (to Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama). They came into the Iron Bowl as 8.5-point dogs, but took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. The same demons that cursed Auburn all season reared their heads in the final frame, though, as the defense gave up 21 points in the last 15 minutes en route to a 55-44 loss.
Unlike the defense, Auburn’s offense has been consistently good this year, averaging 35.8 points per game. It was only held under 20 points once, and under 30 three times.
Auburn has attempted to rectify the problems on defense by bringing in former Florida head coach Will Muschamp to run the unit. But head coach Gus Malzahn knows Muschamp can’t fix the myriad problems overnight.
“Any time you have a defense all year and you know the terminology, you can’t come in and just change everything,” Malzahn said. “But he’s just been more [observing], evaluating, just trying to get his plan for next year ready.”
On the other side of the field, Wisconsin will be looking to bounce back from a 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. A win would be particularly meaningful for star running back Melvin Gordon, who is departing for the NFL at the end of the year.
“This is important to me, my teammates, the seniors and the university,” said Gordon. “No one knows how it feels to win a bowl game. We went through a lot of adversity, and we’re just hoping this bowl game can change the way we look at the season.”
The Badgers have an 11–14 bowl record, and lost last year’s Capital One Bowl (34-24) to South Carolina. Auburn, meanwhile, has an impressive 22–14–2 record in bowl games and has won eight of its last ten. However, the Tigers dropped last year’s National Championship game to Florida State after leading 21-10 at the half.
The Tigers are 6.5-point favorites at the moment, and the game total is at 63.5. These two teams have played three times with one win each, and a draw.
(Photo credit: Phil Roeder (flickr) “Wisconsin Beats UTEP” [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)