OUtback Bowl Pick
These teams had bad finishes to the season, but a change in coaches could have a positive effect on them for this Game. Will Muschamp is Auburn’s new defensive coordinator, while Wisconsin will be led by athletic director Barry Alvarez after Gary Andersen left the team. As expected, the SEC team is getting most of the love. The Tigers are -6.5 point favorites in the OUtback Bowl.
After Gary Andersen unexpectedly fled to Oregon State, Barry Alvarez was left once again to coach the team in a bowl Game. He last coached the team two years ago in a Rose Bowl loss to Stanford 20-14. The Badgers made easy work of most of the Big Ten late in the year when they won seven straight Games. The huge 59-0 loss to Ohio State in the title Game showed some of their obvious flaws though. Even a loss at Northwestern and close win at Iowa were troublesome for this season. The fact that Wisconsin couldn’t play a great Game away from home is somewhat telling and a good reason why they are touchdown underdogs.
Auburn is getting more respect due to the level of competition they have played. Not only did the Tigers beat LSU and Ole Miss in Conference play, but also won at Kansas State, which is no easy task. Auburn’s defense kind of collapsed down the stretch (hence the new DC), and that could be a problem here unless Muschamp has the secret formula to stopping Melvin Gordon.
In similar opponents, Wisconsin let a win against LSU slip away in their opening loss 28-24, while Auburn dominated LSU five weeks later 41-7.
There’s one way the Badgers can win, and that’s through Melvin Gordon and the running Game. Gordon, playing in his final collegiate Game, has had one of the best seasons ever going for 2,336 yards and 26 TDs. But he’s coming off a 76-yard performance against OSU in which he averaged 2.9 yards per carry. If Gordon doesn’t reach 150 yards, Wisconsin probably won’t win this Game. It doesn’t matter if Joel Stave or Tanner McEvoy is in at quarterback, neither one of them is good. They have combined for 13 TDs and 13 INTs on the year. In their three losses, they have one touchdown and nine interceptions.
Auburn is sixth in the nation with 19 interceptions as a team if that says anything. It’ll be interesting to see how their defense comes out, but Wisconsin should have the edge in the running Game. If Gordon can get going, the QBs may not be needed.
Wisconsin’s defense is another story, albeit a confusing one. They actually only allowed 20 points per Game on the year, but that was against their weak Big Ten Schedule. How good is this defense after allowing 59 to Cardale Jones and Ohio State?
While Auburn’s defense has struggled, their offense has not, outside of their 7-point showing at Georgia. They are still one of the better running teams in the nation behind running back Cameron Artis-Payne (1,482 yards, 11 TDs) and quarterback Nick Marshall (780 yards, 11 TDs). It’d be surprising if Wisconsin could stop this rushing attack. Nick Marshall probably had one of the better Games of his career passing wise at Alabama in his last Game, but he’s still an inconsistent passer and can’t be trusted. He does have solid receivers at least in D’haquille Williams (730 yards) and Sammie Coates (717 yards).
If Wisconsin has any trouble at all running the ball, Auburn has the immediate edge. It’s Melvin Gordon or bust for the Badgers.
The Tigers are 5-1 ATS in their last six bowl Games, but have not covered in Four straight Games overall. The Badgers have lost Four straight bowl Games and are 2-5 ATS in their last seven bowl appearances. They are also just 1-4 ATS in their last five non-Conference Games.
Check back on Game day for a pick. If we use the side as a Key Release, we’ll offer an opinion on the total.