2010 Outback Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Jay Horne - 12/29/2009
Northwestern Wildcats (8-4) vs. Auburn Tigers (7-5)
Date: Jan. 1 2010
Location: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, Florida
Spread: Auburn -7, 55 total
The Northwestern Wildcats made some noise in the Big Ten at the end of the season, capturing upsets against previously No. 4 Iowa and also at the time No. 16 Wisconsin to close out the year with three straight victories. The impressive ending to the season earned the Wildcats a trip to the Outback Bowl in just their fourth ever appearance in a New Year’s Day bowl game. The Wildcats are scheduled to battle the Auburn Tigers in what will be the first game of the New Year when the two tangle at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The Outback Bowl has traditionally featured teams from the Big Ten and SEC, but this will be the first year since 1996 that the Outback Bowl committee selected a team out of the SEC West division. In that game, it was Auburn’s only appearance in the Outback Bowl and they were blown out by Penn State, 43-14. The Tigers will definitely seek a better showing 13 years after that embarrassing loss when they meet the Wildcats on Friday afternoon. Coach Gene Chizik guided Auburn to a 7-5 record this season and will be attempting to grab his first postseason victory. Luckily, the Tigers have won five of their last six bowl games and won their last three bowl games against teams from the Big Ten.
The game features two offenses that can score points in a hurry. Auburn led the nation through the first half of the season in total offense before slowing a bit during the second half of the season. The Tigers still managed 432 yards of total offense, on average, to go along with 33 points per game. Auburn’s season record may be somewhat misleading, but they are the same team that led no. 1 Alabama for 58 minutes before a late score ended their hopes of an upset. There will be an equally dangerous offense on the other side of the field as well. Northwestern ranked second in the Big Ten, averaging 266 yards per game through the air and they have big play capability. The Wildcats hung 33 points and nearly 400 passing yards against a Wisconsin defense that ranked 19th overall. Both offenses ended the year playing well and sparks are expected to fly when these two talented offenses square off in what could become a high-scoring affair.
Normally motivation is a big factor in postseason activity, but both teams should have plenty of enthusiasm heading into Friday’s game. Both teams had better seasons than most would have expected. Northwestern is trying to continue their late-season charge and wrap up their second straight nine-win season and prove they are going to be a force in the Big Ten for years to come. Auburn has rebounded in Gene Chizik’s first season as coach after a disappointing 5-7 campaign in 2008. The Tigers could now send seniors Greg Todd (QB) and running back Ben Tate out on a high note while continuing to build some momentum around the Tigers football program heading into 2010.
Both offenses can move the ball through the air and will have success doing so. However, Auburn’s ability to run the football gives them the edge in this game. The Auburn offensive line played extremely well against that ferocious Alabama defensive front in the Iron Bowl and if they play well again Tate will have the opportunity to run wild. He is an exceptional tailback and has racked up more than 1,200 yards this season. The Tigers offensive line averages 300 pounds and will have a noticeable size advantage over the Wildcats defensive line. It is imperative the Northwestern defense gets off the ball well and plug up holes in the running game. If the Wildcats do not play well up front, Auburn will control the game in the trenches and use their running game to bring home the victory.
Also, when the Wildcats offense is on the field they will rely heavily on quarterback Mike Kafka. Kafka is an experienced veteran in Pat Fitzgerald’s offense and closing in on the 3,000-yard passing mark. The Auburn secondary was among the most inconsistent groups in the SEC this year, giving up a ton of yards to passing teams like Arkansas and Tennessee. The Tigers, on average, gave up nearly 200 yards per game through the air. Wildcats receivers Andrew Brewer and Zeke Markshausen are solid targets in the passing game. If Auburn does not get a ton of pressure on Kafka, their talented receivers will make plays against the Tigers pass defense. Brewer is a big play threat, averaging 17 yards per catch and a few big plays in the passing game could really boost the Wildcats chances at scoring the win.
Line Value and Outback Bowl Odds
Most college football betting lines opened favoring the Auburn Tigers by eight points and even as much as 8.5 points on the Internet. However, after a few shifts most online sportsbooks have the Tigers listed at seven-point favorites and that mark is holding steady. The betting public is pretty indecisive with around 55 percent of the early action siding with the Wildcats. The total for the opened at 54.5, but is lingering around the 55 mark at most sportsbooks.
Outback Bowl Predictions
I really do not see the 55 total being reached here. Northwestern relies on their passing offense, but they are not just going to rack up a ton of points against this SEC defense. However, if the Wildcats can make the big plays they can contend for a victory. The Auburn offense is going to try to run over the Wildcats defensive front and when they have success doing so they will keep the ball on the ground, giving limited opportunities for each offense to score. Take the ‘under’ 55.
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