Minnesota Golden Gophers vs Auburn Tigers
When: 1:00 PM ET, Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
OUTBACK BOWL STORYLINES
- Auburn takes on Minnesota in the Outback Bowl at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium on New Year’s Day in a matchup of teams who made big improvements in 2019 and came close to special seasons. Minnesota, which has already earned its most victories since 2003, won its first nine this season before dropping two of the past three and coming up just short of a trip to the Big Ten championship game after winning 12 games combined in coach P.J. Fleck’s first two seasons. The Tigers lost three games – all against top seven teams in the final coaches’ poll – by a total of 21 points and finished the regular season with a 48-45 victory over rival and No. 9 Alabama in the Iron Bowl to reach nine wins – two more than 2018.
- There is plenty of star power on the defensive side of the ball for each team, including a pair of Consensus All-Americans with Auburn senior defensive lineman Derrick Brown and Minnesota sophomore defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. Brown, who joins senior defensive back Jeremiah Dinson (79 tackles) and senior defensive end Marlon Davidson (7.5 sacks) on a team ranked 19th in the nation in total defense, has 50 tackles, four sacks and two fumble recoveries. Winfield is fourth in the nation with seven interceptions and leads the team with 83 tackles as the Golden Gophers ranked 15th in the country in total defense.
- Two talented young quarterbacks will be looking to finish off outstanding seasons in their first full campaign behind center as Minnesota sophomore Tanner Morgan battles against Auburn freshman Bo Nix. Morgan played in the Golden Gophers’ 34-10 over Georgia Tech at the Quick Lane Bowl last season, throwing for two touchdowns, and came back to pass for 2,975 yards and 28 TDs in 2019 while completing 66.1 percent of his attempts. Nix beat eventual Pac-12 champion Oregon in his collegiate debut with a brilliant late drive before going on to pass for 2,366 yards along with 15 touchdowns and run for another 301 and seven scores.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Auburn -7
ABOUT MINNESOTA (10-2): Morgan has been blessed with two of the best receivers in the nation as senior Tyler Johnson boasts 74 catches for 1,114 yards and 11 TDs while sophomore Rashod Bateman made 57 receptions for 1,170 yards and 11 scores. The rushing attack has also been a factor for the Golden Gophers as senior running back Rodney Smith finished the regular season with 1,094 yards along with eight TDs on the ground while sophomore Mohamed Ibrahim and senior Shannon Brooks have each run for more than 400 yards. Kamal Martin (66 tackles, two interceptions) announced he will forego playing in the Outback Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft, but fellow senior linebacker Carter Coughlin (44 tackles, 4.5 sacks) is expected to play.
ABOUT AUBURN (9-3): Nix has completed 57 percent of his passes overall with six interceptions, but did not get picked off in any of the last four games – and once in six contests since having three versus Florida. Sophomore forward Seth Williams is the top target for Nix with 55 catches for 801 yards and eight touchdowns while sophomore JaTarvious Whitlow (739 yards, nine touchdowns) and freshman D.J. Williams (387, two) lead the ground attack as the Tigers try to reach 10 wins for the second time in three years. Auburn offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham has left to take the same position at Florida State and recently fired Arkansas coach Chad Morris was hired to take his place, but coach Gus Malzahn is expected to call the plays.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 31, Auburn 24