The bowl which selected Auburn came as a bit of a surprise on Sunday.

The Outback Bowl selected Auburn to represent the SEC in the New Year’s Day bowl. The Tigers will square off against No. 18 Wisconsin (10-3, 7-1 B1G).

Late Sunday afternoon, all indications pointed to Auburn heading to Jacksonville for the TaxSlayer Bowl. However, the Outback Bowl — considered the second-best non-College Football Playoff Access bowl (formerly BCS bowls) — selected the Tigers.

The New Year’s Day showdown between the Tigers and Badgers will mark the fourth time the two teams have met. Each team has won one meeting, and the two also played to a tie. Wisconsin will become the first team Auburn has played three times in a bowl game in its program history.

The SEC did have a role in Auburn’s selection by the Outback Bowl, with both Mississippi schools being placed in New Year’s Six bowls. However, Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs didn’t shy away from acknowledging his program is attractive for postseason officials.

“The Outback Bowl picked us, and we’re happy to be there,” Jacobs said. “It will be a great thing for our young players to get extra practice time, and a great way for our seniors to go out with a victory on Jan. 1 in Florida.”

No one around the program has shied away from admitting Auburn fell short of its goals. The Tigers wanted to repeat as SEC champions and earn a spot in the first College Football Playoff.

This is a bowl destination of which Auburn coaches and players should be proud.

“We were attractive from our previous trip there in ’09,” Jacobs said. “We appreciate the SEC for recognizing our record and schedule.

“We’re proud of what we accomplished and, even though we had disappointing losses, we’re going to Florida to a bowl game that is great.”

The Tigers take an 8-4 mark to Tampa, after playing the nation’s toughest schedule. Auburn played eight teams currently or formerly ranked in the top 15, five of which were on the road.

The match-up features two of the best running backs in the nation. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon leads the FBS in rushing, with more than 2,300 yards. Auburn senior tailback Cameron Artis-Payne leads the SEC in rushing and spearheads a vaunted Tigers rushing attack.

Wisconsin enters the game a 10-win team, but got crushed in the Big Ten title game on Saturday night by No. 4 Ohio State.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to play at the Outback Bowl in Tampa against a very good Wisconsin team,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “Our players and coaches are looking forward to this opportunity. It should be a great week for our team and our fans.”