After finishing the regular season as 9-3, Auburn’s bowl destination is now official:
It’s #TampaBayTreasure official! @AuburnFootball vs @GopherFootball are headed to the 2020 Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day!— Outback Bowl (@outbackbowl) December 8, 2019
✨ #FootballInParadise hopes to see all you War Eagle & Gopher fans here on New Year’s Day, get your tickets now! ☀️ https://t.co/J1aOrCFQh6 pic.twitter.com/Wa3EZHWOql
The Tigers will play Minnesota at noon Central time on New Year’s Day against Minnesota, who finished the year 10-2. The Golden Gophers were one of the year’s darling teams for a brief moment in November, when they had defeated then-5th-ranked Penn State at home to move to 9-0, but lost the next week at Iowa after they’d moved into the top ten.
Under P.J. Fleck, who came from Western Michigan, the Gophers have improved each year. Fleck was 5-7 in his first season in 2017, then 7-6 last year, before finishing this season at 10-2. After falling to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium, Minnesota got pummeled at home by Wisconsin in the regular season finale 38-17 as the Badgers won the Division.
The above list from before the 2017 season can be updated now to cross even more teams off the list. We’d already been able to take Kent State, Purdue, and Washington off of the list, but now Minnesota can exit stage right as well. There are still three Big Ten teams that Auburn will have never played in Illinois, Iowa, and Iowa State.
So, what do we know about Minnesota? Here are some numbers:
TOTAL OFFENSE: 49th (426.8 ypg)
TOTAL DEFENSE: 15th (312.5 ypg)
LEADING PASSER: Tanner Morgan (191-289; 66.1%; 2,975 yds; 28-6 TD-INT)
LEADING RUSHER: Rodney Smith (212 rushes; 1,095 yds; 5.2 ypc; 8 TDs)
LEADING RECEIVER: Tyler Johnson (74 catches; 1,114 yds; 15.1 ypc; 11 TDs); Rashod Bateman (57 catches; 1,170 yds; 20.5 ypc; 11 TDs)
LEADING TACKLER: Antoine Winfield, Jr. (83 tackles; 3.5 TFLs; 3.0 sacks; 7 INTs; 2 FF)
In Minnesota’s 9-0 start, they didn’t really have much trouble due to an easy strength of schedule. The non-conference slate consisted of South Dakota State, Fresno State, and Georgia Southern. They also play in the weak West division of the Big Ten, and they got to play Purdue, Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, and Maryland before facing off against Penn State.
However, they’re still going to be a tough opponent looking to make Auburn the signature win on their best season in quite some time. The Gophers haven’t won 10 games since 2003, when they had Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber in the backfield, and they’ve NEVER won 11 games in a season, so this bowl game won’t be inconsequential to P.J. Fleck and company.
We’ll have more on the Gophers going forward, but for now enjoy the buildup to what should be a solid New Year’s Day bowl! War Eagle!