2014 did not exactly play out the way we all hoped, but it was not exactly totally unsurprising, either. Sure, the absolute implosion of the defense leading to Ellis Johnson's dismissal was unexpected, but four losses? With the schedule Auburn played, four losses was always a possibility.
Now the Tigers are facing a very good Wisconsin team. Sure, they were blown out in the B1G Championship Game, but don't for a second believe that means this is not a good team. They have a running back who is probably one of - if not THE - best in the nation. They have a very stout defense that ranks close to the top nationally. This will be yet another tough test for Auburn.
Auburn will be without its top wide receiver in D'haquille Williams, who is suspended for violating team rules. They are playing in a slimmed-down defensive scheme coordinated by a position coach (who does have defensive coordinator experience, however). This is a team that expected to be in the College Football Playoff discussion, and imploded to lose three of their final four games.
With all that, I think this will be a highly motivated team. They want to close it out on top. The seniors on this team have been through a lot, and they want to show out. The underclassmen want to show that this will be a team to be reckoned with next season.
It's the final game of the season. Soak it in. War Eagle.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen
When: 12pm EST / 11am CDT
Stream: WatchESPN / ESPN3
Listen: Auburn IMG Network
Odds and Ends
Weather: Forecast for kickoff is mostly cloudy, 0% chance of rain, 72 degrees. Perfect weather.
Line: Auburn is a 7 point favorite
Noon Kickoff: This will be Auburn's first noon kickoff (11am CDT) of the season.
When Wisconsin has the ball: Will Auburn's defensive front be able to stop Melvin Gordon? Wisconsin has an excellent offensive line, and they're great at running the football. They are not so great passing the football, which works out well for the Tigers. If Auburn is able to slow Gordon down, then their passing struggles may allow the Tigers to bring in more pressure and hopefully get a sack or two.
When Auburn has the ball: I think one of the first questions is just how much pace will play into this game. Wisconsin players have been practicing against two offenses to simulate pace, but Auburn hasn't been as up-tempo this season as they were last year. That may change in the bowl game. Wisconsin's defensive backs won't have to worry about defending Duke Williams, but Melvin Ray, CJ Uzomah, and Quan Bray are no pushovers. And then there's always Sammie Coates. He will get behind the Wisconsin DBs at least once. I guarantee it. The question will be whether Nick Marshall can hit him cleanly (or if Sammie can catch with his hands rather than his body).
I think this will be another scoring fest. Early today I predicted 38-31, and I stand by that. I could see it being a bit better for Auburn if Will Muschamp has been involved with the defense a bit more than reported. He was not going to turn this into an amazing defensive unit in the limited bowl practices available, but I do remember the way the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl played out when Chizik stepped in to take over the defense and turned Gus loose on the offensive side of the ball. I could see this game playing out very similar to that one.
I really think Gus decides to have fun with the offense in this game. We may even see the Fish "Fumblerooski." The Statue of Liberty deep bomb is a given. Gus will play this all out and give Nick Marshall the chance to shine. I know many of you are hoping we see Jeremy Johnson, but I would be shocked if Johnson plays in this game. The only way I see that happening is if Nick Marshall gets hurt.
Everyone have a great time tonight for New Year's Eve. Stay safe. Don't do anything stupid. And don't drink so much that you're too hungover to get up and watch the game!