It's here. After nearly five weeks since their last game, the Northwestern Wildcats (10-2) are back in action, looking for a program-record 11th win this season against the Tennessee Volunteers (8-4) in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
Pat Fitzgerald's bunch will need to play well in all facets of the game to top the Volunteers, who are 8 1/2-point favorites. Tennessee's offense, led by talented dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs, has athleticism all over the field. Running backs Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara present a sort of "thunder and lightning" combo, with Hurd coming in at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and Kamara-- a smaller back-- possessing game-breaking speed. On defense, the Vols have been solid against both the run and the pass. Defensive end Derek Barnett has been one of the best linemen in the nation and has registered 19 sacks in his two years in the Volunteer orange. On special teams, the Volunteers have a total of six return touchdowns. Evan Berry, younger brother of Kansas City Chief Pro Bowler Eric Berry, has brought back three kickoffs for scores while Cameron Sutton and Kamara have three punt return touchdowns combined.
As for Northwestern, the team will likely look to establish the run early and focus on containing Dobbs to the pocket. The Wildcats have used sound defense and a run-first attack all year, leading to double-digit wins for the first time since 2012. The Wildcats will need more of the same if they are to reach the 11-win plateau.
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