Whenever a new year is started most see it as an opportunity to start fresh. For the 2020 Outback Bowl, the Auburn Tigers and Minnesota Golden Gophers want to add on to what they accomplished in 2019. The two will collide in Tampa Bay, Florida on January 1st at noon central time and the game will be televised on ESPN. The Auburn Tigers will look to continue their momentum after an Iron Bowl victory and gain their tenth victory of the season. The Minnesota Golden Gophers come in from the Big Ten and look for win eleven.
2020 Outback Bowl Preview: Auburn Tigers
Auburn Offense vs Minnesota Defense
At his core, Gus Malzahn wants to be a run-first football team. When the running game is having success that is when the Tigers offense is most cohesive. Auburn has the fourth-best rushing attack in the SEC averaging 211 yards per game. The Minnesota run defense has been solid throughout the season only allowing 127.9 yards. The rushing attack is led by JaTarvious Whitlow and newcomer D.J. Williams. For the first part of the season, the run game was built around Whitlow. Another running back had to step up though when he went down with an injury during the Florida loss in October.
To get the rush attack going Auburn will need Bo Nix to be big against the Golden Gophers. Nix did win SEC Freshman of the Year but had his struggles this season. The struggles were mostly against ranked opponents. Nix completed just 50% of his passes and averaged 166.2 yards per game. Auburn went 3-3 in those games with wins over Oregon, Texas A&M, and Alabama. In the season finale against Alabama, Nix was 50% with 173 yards but showed his play-making ability when it mattered most. Getting Nix involved in the run game will be key as well. Minnesota allowed just 184.9 passing yards a contest but they did not meet many receivers that are the caliber of Seth Williams.
Minnesota will be without one of their best defensive players due to senior linebacker Kamal Martin sitting out to prepare for the 2020 NFL Draft. Martin had a solid 2019 campaign with 66 tackles and two interceptions. Attacking the part of the field that Martin would typically be at could be a strong strategy for Auburn.
Auburn Defense vs Minnesota Offense
Like Minnesota, Auburn will have a defensive player sitting out due to draft preparation. Pass rusher Nick Coe decided he would not participate in the game. While Coe will not play, SEC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brown along with Marlon Davidson will suit up for the final time. Brown is the ultimate disrupter at the line of scrimmage. If an offense does not use two linemen to block him they are asking for a long day. Davidson is more of the pass rusher of the two and benefits greatly from the attention Brown gets. Together they are a dynamic due rare to be seen in college football.
Auburn finished with the 13th best defense in college football with yards allowed, but Minnesota presents a tough offense to stop. The Golden Gophers were ranked fourth in the Big Ten this season averaging 426.8 yards per game. They are exceptional in the passing game with a very underrated quarterback in Tanner Morgan. This season Morgan was third in the Big Ten in passing yards with 2,975. He also added 28 touchdowns with a completion percentage of 66.1. In Auburn’s last game the secondary was torched by Mac Jones. The Alabama quarterback threw for 335 yards and four touchdowns.
The Tigers will have their hands full with the Minnesota receivers just like they did against Alabama. The Golden Gophers have not one but two 1,000-yard receivers. Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson will give any secondary headaches, and both reached the end-zone 11 times. The Auburn defensive backs are not to be taken lightly though with Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas leading the way. An intriguing subplot to the game is that Minnesota will be without offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. Ciarrocca recently accepted the same position at Penn State. Head coach P.J. Fleck announced that wide receiver coach Matt Simon will be the interim offensive coordinator.
2020 Outback Bowl Prediction
This should be a game that comes down to the wire. That’s how it has been for both teams this season and the moment will not be too big for either squad. For most of the season, Auburn just could not get it done in the big games, but that way of thinking should be different after defeating Alabama. Minnesota and Auburn go back and forth but the Tigers win 27-20.