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2010 Outback Bowl - Northwestern vs. Auburn
Auburn RB Ben Tate & Northwestern QB Mike Kafka
Auburn RB Ben Tate & Northwestern QB Mike Kafka
Posted Dec 26, 2009

The CFN 2010 Outback Bowl Preview - Northwestern vs. Auburn

2010 Outback Bowl

Northwestern (8-4) vs. Auburn (7-5)

Tampa, FL, Jan. 1, 11 am, ESPN

Scroll Down For Bowl Histories & Best Moments

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- Get Tickets For The Outback Bowl

Team Pages and 2009 Season


- 2009 CFN Outback Bowl Preview
- 2008 CFN Outback Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Outback Bowl Preview
National Rankings
A   N
20th Total Offense 57th
51st Total Defense 44th
20th Scoring Offense 76th
73rd Scoring Defense 48th
13th Rushing Offense 93rd
80th Run Defense 36th
56th Passing Offense 29th
28th Passing Defense 68th
59th Turnover Margin 31st
Position Ratings
relative to each other
A 5 highest
1 lowest
2 Quarterbacks 4
5 RBs 2
3 Receivers 3
3.5 O Line 2
3 D Line 3.5
3 Linebackers 3
4 Secondary 3
4 Spec Teams 4
3.5 Coaching 4
Outback Bowl History
2009 Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
2008 Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
2007 Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
2006 Florida 31, Iowa 24
2005 Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
2004 Iowa 37, Florida 17
2003 Michigan 38, Florida 30
2002 South Carolina 31, Ohio St 28
2001 South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
2000 Georgia 28, Purdue 25 (OT)
1999 Penn State 26, Kentucky 14
1998 Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6
1997 Alabama 17, Michigan 14
1996 Penn State 43, Auburn 14
1995 Wisconsin 34, Duke 20
1994 Michigan 42, NC State 7
1993 Tennessee 38, Boston Coll 23
1991 Clemson 30, Illinois 0
1990 Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
1989 Syracuse 23, LSU 10
1988 Michigan 28, Alabama 24
1986 Boston College 27, Georgia 24
You know how the SEC is supposed to be so much faster than the slow, stodgy, Big Ten, and how it’s supposed to be light years ahead talent-wise? Don’t tell that to the Outback Bowl.

The best ammo for Big Ten fans in the ongoing fight for respectability has been this game as their conference has managed to hold serve with the mighty SEC over the last eight years going 4-4 and being more than just competitive in the losses. When the game has been a blowout, at least recently, it’s been the SEC that went into the tank with Florida losing to Iowa 37-17 in the 2004 game and South Carolina deciding not to show up last year against the Hawkeyes in a 31-10 drubbing. Northwestern has to try to keep the Big Ten’s string of nice Outback performances going, and it has to prove that it really does belong here.

Technically, the Wildcats deserved this bowl having beaten Wisconsin in the Big Ten regular season finale, but there was some thought that because the Badgers bring the fans, and because the loss in Evanston was sort of an aberration in a strange see-saw game, that the wrong team was making the trip. Instead, Wisconsin is off to the Champs Sports Bowl (which won’t exactly be a layup against Miami) while the Wildcats will try to win just their second bowl game after losing six straight. The lone bowl win came over California in the 1948 Rose Bowl, while the six losses since 1995 have come in all shapes and sizes.

There was the Rose Bowl loss to USC to cap off a great 1995 season, there was an embarrassing 2003 Motor City Bowl loss to the MAC’s Bowling Green, there was the 66-17 nail-biter of a 2000 Alamo Bowl loss to Nebraska, and there was last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Missouri in the Alamo. In the six losses the defense has given up an average of 44 points per game, but it hasn’t helped that the Cats had to face a few legendary college quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Eric Crouch, and Chase Daniel.

Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t care.

No player, no coach, and no fan in America cares more about his college football team than the Northwestern head man, and he really and truly believes that his program should be in the mix for the Big Ten title, and more, each and every season. Beating Auburn in a New Year’s Day bowl game would go a long way to show that Fitzgerald might be right.

The Tigers came up with a successful first season under head coach Gene Chizik, and while there were some bumps along the way, just getting to the Outback Bowl is a tremendous step forward after the monster disappointment of the 2008 losing season. The team might be limping into the post-season after losing five of their last seven games, but they pushed Alabama to the final minute, lost by a touchdown at Georgia, and beat Ole Miss after starting out the season 5-0. The Gus Malzahn offense hasn’t always been smooth, but it’s a night-and-day improvement over the struggles the Tiger attack had last year. The defense as struggled, but Chizik is a defensive-minded coach and is expected to turn things around in a hurry. Stopping Northwestern and winning the bowl game would be a good step.

Auburn was fantastic in bowls under former head man Tommy Tuberville and is on a run of five wins in the last six. So either a nice bowl streak will continue and an ugly one will go on, or Northwestern will come up with one of the biggest wins in school history and Auburn will have an offseason of grumpiness. This might not be the premier Big Ten vs. SEC matchup (that’s the Capital One Bowl), but the first college football game of the New Year should be entertaining enough to ease you into the long day of games.

Players to Watch
: The best quarterback in the Big Ten this year was … Darryl Clark? Close. Terrelle Pryor? Hardly. Northwestern senior Mike Kafka was originally known as a running option after tearing off 217 yards as a fill-in to beat Minnesota last season, but turned into a whale of a passer with good decision-making skills, a nice touch on his short throws, and the ability to get the ball to players where they could do something with it. While he only threw 12 touchdown passes, he was almost always clutch and had a great knack for making up for his errors. Three of his seven interceptions came early against Indiana, but he made amends by leading the Cats to a thrilling 29-28 win with 312 yards and two touchdown passes. He threw for over 300 yards against both Illinois and Wisconsin in the final two games of the regular season to lead the way to the wins needed to get here, and he’s going to have to throw for well over 300 again if Northwestern is going to pull off the upset.

If everything is clicking for Auburn’s offense, Ben Tate will have a big game. The senior started out red hot with six 100-yard games in the first nine, and wasn’t needed for more than 12 carries against Furman, but Georgia and Alabama were able to keep him under wraps. More of a powerful back instead of a speed one, like future star Onterio McCalebb , Tate is at his best when he’s able to barrel inside and get a little bit of a crease to tear off yards in chunks. If he’s running well, then Malzahn can play around with all the other parts of the offense.

Trying to keep Tate and the Auburn under wraps will be Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, who’s coming full-circle after suffering a knee injury in last year’s Alamo Bowl. He was a fringe first-round prospect had he stayed healthy and had he decided to come out early, but he looked at the injury as a possible positive. Blessed with tremendous size and a world of talent, his work ethic was in question, and he admitted as much. But to get back to healthy he had to bust his tail to get back on the field, and while the production hasn’t been there compared to his pre-injury form, he’s starting to come back with four sacks in his final five games.

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Best Wildcat Bowl Moment: No contest. When you’re the Big Ten’s perennial doormat and you haven’t been to a bowl game in 47 years, an unexpected berth in the Rose Bowl is more than a great bowl moment—it’s the modern day high point for your program. Such was the case for the 1995 ‘Cats, which shocked the world by winning the conference title and earning a trip to Pasadena. They led favored USC early in the fourth quarter before succumbing, 41-32.

Best Tiger Bowl Moment: Over the years, the Tigers have given their fans plenty to cheer about in the postseason. High on the list of shining moments was the school's only Sugar Bowl win, a 9-7 triumph over Michigan in 1984. In a classic defensive struggle with the Wolverines, Auburn pulled out the game when Al Del Greco split the uprights with under a minute left. The 11-1 Tigers finished No. 2 in the polls behind a Miami team that upset unbeaten Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Northwestern Bowl History (1-6)
2008 Alamo Missouri 30, Northwestern 23 OT
2005 Sun UCLA 50, Northwestern 38
2003 Motor City Bowling Green 28, Northwestern 24
2000 Alamo Nebraska 66, Northwestern 17
1996 Citrus Tennessee 48, Northwestern 28
1995 Rose USC 41, Northwestern 32
1948 Rose Northwestern 20, California 14
Auburn Bowl History (19-13-2)
2007 Clemson Auburn 23, Clemson 20
2007 Cotton Auburn 17, Nebraska 14
2006 Capital One Wisconsin 24, Auburn 10
2005 Sugar Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13
2003 Music City Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14
2002 Capital One Auburn 13, Penn State 9
2001 Peach North Carolina 16, Auburn 10
2000 Citrus Michigan 31, Auburn 28
1997 Peach Auburn 21, Clemson 17
1996 Independence Auburn 32, Army 29
1995 Outback Penn State 42, Auburn 13
1990 Peach Auburn 27, Indiana 23
1989 Hall of Fame Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
1988 Sugar Florida State 13, Auburn 7
1987 Sugar Auburn 16, Syracuse 16
1986 Citrus Auburn 16, Southern California 7
1985 Cotton Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16
1984 Liberty Auburn 21, Arkansas 15
1983 Sugar Auburn 9, Michigan 7
1982 Tangerine Auburn 33, Boston College 26
1974 Gator Auburn 27, Texas 3
1973 Sun Missouri 34, Auburn 17
1972 Gator Auburn 24, Colorado 3
1971 Sugar Oklahoma 40, Auburn 22
1970 Gator Auburn 35, Ole Miss 28
1969 Astro-Bluebonnet Houston 36, Auburn 7
1968 Sun Auburn 34, Arizona 10
1965 Liberty Ole Miss 13, Auburn 7
1963 Orange Nebraska 13, Auburn 7
1955 Gator Vanderbilt 25, Auburn 13
1954 Gator Auburn 33, Baylor 13
1953 Gator Texas Tech 35, Auburn 13
1937 Orange Auburn 6, Michigan State 0
1936 Bacardi Auburn 7, Villanova 7