Auburn football: 5 things I want to see in the Outback Bowl
The Auburn Tigers (9-3, 5-3) face Big Ten opponent Minnesota (10-2, 7-2) in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day at Raymond James Stadium, extending their postseason streak to 7 consecutive seasons under head coach Gus Malzahn. That’s the most since the 8-year streak from 2000-07.
The Tigers have lost 4 of their past 6 bowl games but look to reverse that trend Wednesday when the meet the Golden Gophers for the first time. Auburn is 2-2 in Outback Bowl appearances with wins over Ohio State (1989) and Northwestern (2009), and losses to Penn State (1995) and Wisconsin (2014).
It’s an important for several reasons, but here are 5 things I want to see from the Tigers in this year’s Outback Bowl.
1. Seniors go out with 10-win season
I want to see the 25 seniors who will be suiting up for the Tigers one last time to go out with a victory and Auburn’s first 10-win season since 2017 and the fourth this decade. That would tie for the most in any decade in program history. Auburn had 4 10-win seasons in the 1980s.
It would be a fitting tribute to a senior group that has already posted 35 victories over the past four years. That senior group, in alphabetical order: Wil Appleton, Derrick Brown, Sal Cannella, Craig Carter, Marlon Davidson, Javaris Davis, Jeremiah Dinson, Jack Driscoll, Phelps Gambill, Marquel Harrell, Will Hastings, Mike Horton, Trent Kelley, Kaleb Kim, Sage Ledbetter, Kam Martin, Spencer Nigh, Pace Ozmint, Jacob Rogers, Bailey Sharp, Sam Sherrod, Daniel Thomas, Gary Walker, Prince Tega Wanogho and Jay Jay Wilson.
2. Bo Nix catch his dad
The freshman QB ranks No. 8 all-time at Auburn for single-season passing yardage with 2,366 (a school-record for freshmen). If my math is correct, he needs 208 passing yards against Minnesota in the Outback Bowl to tie his father, Patrick Nix, who ranks 6th with 2,574 passing yards in the 1995 season.
Dameyune Craig holds Auburn’s all-time record for passing yardage in a single season with 3,277.
3. Seth Williams go off
I’d like to see the sophomore wide receiver top an outstanding season with a big game. Williams led the Tigers with 55 receptions (801 yards, 8 TDs), including a career-best 13 catches for 121 yards against Georgia.
He needs 4 touchdown catches to tie the single-season school record of 12 set by Terry Beasley in 1971. Williams also ranks 10th in the program’s all-time career touchdown list. He is 5 behind Ben Obomanu, who ranks 2nd with 18 career TD grabs. Beasley holds Auburn’s career mark with 29.
Williams is also tied with Beasley for 6th on Auburn’s single-season receptions list. He needs 5 more to catch Darvin Adams for 3rd place. Ryan Davis holds the top 2 marks with 84 catches in 2017 and 69 pass receptions in 2018.
4. Get the early lead
Historically, under Malzhan, it’s been imperative that the Tigers score first. They are 5-1 this season when doing so and under Malzahn are 46-14 when scratching the scoreboard initially. Auburn has scored first in 31 of its past 43 games.
In addition, this season the Tigers are 7-0 when leading at halftime, 8-0 when they are ahead after 3 quarters, and 9-1 when scoring 20-plus points. So racing to the end zone first and maintaining a lead heading into the final period will be key.
5. Score a non-offensive touchdown
Do that and the Tigers are guaranteed a victory. Or at least that’s what history has shown. When Auburn scores a non-offensive touchdown, it is 19-0 under Malzahn, and has a streak of 21 consecutive victories in those games.
During the current run, Auburn has scored 24 non-offensive touchdowns. Here’s the breakdown: 11 interceptions, 5 punts (2 blocked), 4 fumbles, 3 kickoffs, and 1 missed field goal, i.e., Kick-6.
The last time the Tigers lost a game in which they recorded a non-offensive touchdown was a 28-10 setback at the hands of Mississippi State during the 2012 season in which Onterio McCalebb returned a kickoff 100 yards to start the second half.