I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas Weekend and enjoyed time with family and friends. It was great to take a few days off and recharge the batteries, but we're back now and ready for Outback Bowl week. There are a number of storylines developing as we get closer to Friday.
Auburn arrived in Tampa yesterday and practiced for the first time this morning. Auburn coach Gene Chizik said the session left something to be desired. "(We were) a little rusty," he said. "You could tell they had four days off. The effort was good, but I thought we were a little bit sloppy, a little bit rusty. We obviously need the next four days. We'll get back to work and we'll try to get some of these things shored up."
It will be interesting to see how Chizik deals with the distractions of bowl week activities. Some coaches have a knack for getting the most out of their teams during these games, while others fail miserably. Tommy Tuberville was 5-3 in bowl games at Auburn, but lost his first two. Terry Bowden was 2-1, but because of probation his two best teams were not eligible for the postseason in 1993 and 1994.
Pat Dye had the most success, going 5-2-1 during his tenure. Surprisingly, Shug Jordan managed only a 5-8 bowl record during his long tenure. Like Bowden, some of his best teams, including the 1957 National Champions, were ineligible because of NCAA violations.
Chizik wasted no time laying down the law to his players at a meeting yesterday afternoon. "We had a team meeting already where we talked about logistics of that," Chizik said. "We're here for one reason. We're here to win our eighth football game of the season, make no mistake about that. There's got to be a balance in there that they have to be mature enough to understand.
"There's going to be a time for work and a time for play. The bottom line is we have to come here and go to work, starting (Sunday) morning, starting with meetings early. We've got to be focused and ready to go. When football's over for the day, then they can go to the next thing. But football's got to be the priority."
If you've read any of the Northwestern blogs, you know that Wildcat fans and players are pumped for this game. Unlike Auburn, a New Year's bowl game appearance is about as common as an Alabama fan being able to point Tuscaloosa out on a map. As for actually winning, forget about it.
Northwestern is 1-7 in bowl games, last playing in a New Year's Day game back in 1996 when they lost to Southern Cal 41-32. They've lost their last six bowl games, with the last win coming way back in 1949. However, Auburn shouldn't be lulled into believing the Wildcats will be a pushover. They lost in overtime last season to Missouri in the Alamo Bowl and their stated goal since August has been to reach a bowl game and most importantly, win.
We'll be here all week with previews and updates from the happenings in Tampa. Stay tuned. War Eagle!