Citrus Bowl Pick ATS – Auburn vs. Northwestern – 1/1/21

citrus bowl pick
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Auburn Tigers (6-4 5-5 ATS) vs. #14 Northwestern Wildcats (6-2 6-1-1 ATS)

The SEC and the Big 10 clash in the Citrus Bowl with Auburn taking on Northwestern. Northwestern is a 3.5-point favorite in the game with the total sitting at 43.5.

While the total has gone down from 45.5 to 43.5 the line of NW -3.5 has not changed since opening, as of Monday, December 28.

Auburn did not have the best of seasons at 6-4 and not even 24 hours after winning their last game, which snapped their two-game skid, they fired head coach Gus Malzahn. Kevin Steele will take on the coaching duties for the Citrus Bowl. (Bryan Harsin was just named new coach for 2021)

Three of the four losses for Auburn this season came against ranked teams and their two-game losing streak to end the season came facing top-ranked Alabama and fifth-ranked Texas A&M. The Tigers are balanced but do not have a high scoring team (25.9 ppg) and will face a Northwestern defense that is one of the best in the nation.

Northwestern won their first five games but lost two of their last three games. They were 1-1 against ranked teams this season and are led by a defense that only gave up an average of 15.5 ppg.

Auburn has failed to cover the spread in their last four games facing a team with a winning record. On the other side of the coin, Northwestern has covered in their last four games facing a team with a winning record.

Ending On a Winning Note

After losing two in a row Auburn won their season finale beating Mississippi State 24-10. They were 1-3 facing ranked teams this season and their other loss came against a 2-8 South Carolina team.

Bo Nix led the Tigers and on the season had 2,123 passing yards with a TD to INT ratio of 11-7 and was also the team’s second-leading rusher (356 yards 7 TD). Nix only had one TD in the last three games.

Tank Bigsby led the Tigers with 834 rushing yards and 5 TD averaging six yards per carry. He blew up for 192 rushing yards against a 3-7 Mississippi State team in the season finale while rushing for a combined 115 yards in his previous two games.

The WR duo of Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz combined for 1,324 receiving yards and 7 TD.

Northwestern’s strength on defense is against the pass and their run D gave up an average of 156.5 rushing yards per game. They gave up a whopping 399 rushing yards in the Big 10 title game in their last game of the season.

Can’t Stop the Run

Northwestern lost 22-10 to Ohio State in the Big 10 title game where they had a balanced offensive attack but had three turnovers and their run D was torched. Their run defense struggled in the two losses and that is a concern heading into this bowl game.

Peyton Ramsey passed for 1,442 yards with 9 TD and 8 INT and in the last three games, he had four INT and only one TD. His main targets are Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Kyric McGowan, who had 447 yards and 366 yards respectively.

The Wildcats run game is RB by committee with five players that rushed for at least 202 yards.

Auburn had issues this season against the pass and the run but did hold opponents to an average of 25.9 ppg.

Our Pick

It’s not often you see a coach fired and yet see that team playing on New Years Day. But that’s what we have here with Auburn and of course that leads to the million dollar question. What will Auburn’s mindset be?

We think they’ll come to play. With that in mind, it’s hard not to consider the Tigers a live dog in this spot.

Northwestern has a legit defense. They gave Ohio State all they could handle. Northwestern could win this game with their defense alone.

In fact, if Northwestern is to win, they’ll have to do it with their defense because their offense presents very little threat as far as extending a margin.

More than likely this game is up for grabs as it winds through the 4th quarter and in that situation we’d always rather be taking a field goal +.

That’s exactly how our model sees this game. Using full season data the model says 18-16 in favor of Northwestern. Using data from the last 7 games only, the model says Auburn 19 Northwestern 16.

Auburn +3.5 as well as a lean to the Under 43.5