Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Auburn-Northwestern Prediction: Outback Bowl Preview

Northwestern Wildcats vs Auburn Tigers
January 1 11 AM ET
Tampa, FL

Two teams fighting for respect, but different kinds, meet in the first game of 2010.

The Auburn Tigers are fighting for respect that they belong here on New Years Day despite a 7-5 record that included a 2-5 finish after opening the season 5-0. Auburn was selected here instead of other teams like Kentucky and Georgia who both beat the Tigers this season.

Northwestern wants to show the SEC and the nation they can play football with the big boys. The Wildcats closed the season with three straight wins including two wins over Wisconsin and Iowa to get to 8-4.

But that 8-4 record may be a little misleading when Northwestern played the 88th toughest schedule in the nation according to the Sagarin ratings. Auburn played the 22nd toughest.

The Wildcats do what you would expect they would do consider their high academic standards. They take care of the ball ranking 31st nationally in turnover margin and are 34th in penalties per game.
Where Northwestern may steal this game is with a critical coaching error in the fourth quarter. Pat Fitzgerald is one of the up and coming coaches in the nation and almost always has his teams ready to play. I am not a big Gene Chizik fan by any means, especially in crunch time.

But I like Auburn in this game because of their ability to run the ball and their size and speed advantage on the line of scrimmage. The Tigers out gained Alabama on the ground in their last game and for the season Auburn is averaging 214 yards per game.

The Tigers defense also matches up well with Northwestern considering Auburn ranks 29th nationally at under 200 yards per game allowed.

Auburn 28 Northwestern 24

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