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Northwestern to play in Outback Bowl against Tennessee

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Northwestern has been selected to play in the 2016 Outback Bowl on New Year's Day. The news was first reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy, and the program and the bowl later confirmed that NU had accepted a bid.

The Wildcats (10-2, 6-2 Big Ten) will face the Tennessee Volunteers (8-4, 5-3) of the Southeastern Conference. The Vols are led by head coach Butch Jones and junior quarterback Josh Dobbs.

Tennessee finished the season unranked in the AP Poll, but won its final five games of the season and finished No. 23 in the College Football Playoff rankings. Its four losses came by a combined 17 points to No. 2 Alabama, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 19 Florida and Arkansas. Tennessee led or was tied at some point of the fourth quarter in all four of those games.

Northwestern came in at No. 12 in the final AP and Coaches Polls, but finished 13th in the College Football Playoff rankings missed out on a New Year's Six bowl.

The last time Northwestern and Tennessee played was in the 1997 Citrus Bowl. On that day, Peyton Manning led the 11th-ranked Volunteers, coached by Phillip Fulmer, to a 48-28 victory over the 9th-ranked, Gary Barnett-led Wildcats.

Last year's Outback Bowl featured Wisconsin and Auburn. The Badgers beat the Tigers 34-31 in overtime.

The Citrus Bowl chose Michigan ahead of Northwestern despite the Wildcats being ranked one spot higher in the College Football Playoff rankings.

Outback Bowl information

The Outback Bowl is played in Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Tampa, Fla. on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m. CT (noon local time). It will be televised on ESPN2.

Leading up to the Outback Bowl, there will be a number of events that Northwestern will participate in. Pat Fitzgerald will travel to Tampa on Dec. 10 for the bowl's contract signing party. Both the Wildcats and Volunteers will attend a welcome dinner on Dec. 26 at Outback Steakhouse.

Over the five days leading up to the game, both teams will participate in a bowling night, will visit local hospitals, will attend a Tampa Bay Lightening (NHL) game, and will make trips to an amusement park and a local beach.

The day before the game, there will be a "Battle of the Bands" at Busch Gardens between the two schools' marching bands.

Three hours prior to kickoff on the day of the game, at 9 a.m. ET, fans of both teams will be able to attend a pep rally outside the stadium.

Northwestern will technically be the road team, while Tennessee will be the home team.

More on Northwestern's opponent, Tennessee, to come today and tomorrow. Pat Fitzgerald will also speak with the media on a teleconference Sunday evening.