No. 14 Northwestern (6-2 B1G) is slated to play Auburn (6-4 SEC) in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on Friday, January 1. The last time these two teams faced off was in the 2010 Outback Bowl, which the Tigers won 38-35 in overtime.
Northwestern will head to Orlando as a result of its earning the second-best bowl in the conference following its second Big Ten Championship Game appearance in three seasons. The West Division Champions fell to No. 4 Ohio State 22-10, but many expected Indiana would earn a New Year’s Six berth with its impressive 6-1 record. When the Hoosiers did not earn a spot in a NY6 bowl earlier today, it seemed the Wildcats would be bumped to the Outback Bowl since IU is ranked higher than them in the final College Football Playoff rankings.
The last time Northwestern went to the Citrus Bowl, in 1997, a Tennessee quarterback named Peyton Manning thew for 408 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-28 Volunteer victory.
Auburn has faced some tough challenges in its schedule this season, dropping three games to top-10 opponents. The Tigers fell to No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 8 Georgia earlier this year while also suffering a bad loss to South Carolina. However, AU took care of business against the remainder of its SEC schedule. AU also fired its head coach Gus Malzahn last week after eight years with the program. Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will take over as interim head coach for the matchup against the ‘Cats.
AU is led by QB Bo Nix, the 2019 SEC Freshman of the year, as well as true freshman RB Tank Bigsby. Bigsby has racked up four 100-yard rushing games, notably passing Bo Jackson for the second-most rushing yards by an Auburn freshman. On the defensive side, linebackers and leading tacklers Zakoby McClain and Owen Pappoe have stepped up after the team lost senior captain and all SEC linebacker K.J. Britt to a thumb injury.
The ‘Cats will head to Florida hungry for a Citrus Bowl win, which would send off Mike Hankwitz with his 400th victory ahead of his retirement following the season.