2015 Outback Bowl: Previews, Predictions and Prognostications

When: Thursday, Jan. 1; 11am CT
Where: Tampa Bay, FL; Raymond James Stadium
Radio: Badger Sports Network
Last Meeting: No. 24 UW 24-10 over No. 7 AUB; Jan. 2, 2006 (Capital One Bowl)
All-Time Series: Tied, 1-1-1


Position Breakdowns:

*all numbers courtesy CFBstats.com.

Wisconsin Pass Offense vs. Auburn Pass Defense: 
UW Passing Stats: 1,961 yards, 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions 150.8 yards per game, 12.0 yards per catch
AUB Pass D Stats: 2,870 yards, 21 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 239.2 yards per game, 12.5 yards per catch

Team Rankings: (Conference/National)
UW Pass Off: 12th/118th
AUB Pass D: 13th/87h

This could be the first time the Badgers have an advantage in the pass game all season long. However, don’t read too much in to the fact that Auburn struggled with the pass attack of SEC offenses, as many good pass defenses would do the same.

Still, Wisconsin could find itself in a position to do some damage in that part of the game thanks to the likes of Alex Erickson, Sam Arneson and Troy Fumagalli. Given the propensity of opponents to stack the box, the Badgers could have some big plays in their future in the pass game.

Look for the play-action pass to be key and look for UW to also try and get Erickson going with a few wide receiver screens as well.

However, Auburn has some pretty good tackling corners and unless the rest of the team is up to its task in the blocking game this could be a troublesome part of the contest against Auburn. The talent is there for the Tigers, as it appears to be there for the Badgers. It’s just up to which team’s weakness can be a strength.

Advantage: Push

Wisconsin Rushing Offense vs. Auburn Rushing Defense:
UW Rushing Stats: 4,082 yards, 43 touchdowns, 6.9 yards per carry, 314.0 yards per game
AUB Rush D Stats: 1,794 yards, 19 touchdowns, 4.1 yards per carry, 149.5 yards per game

Team Rankings:
UW Rush Off: 1st/4th
AUB Rush D: 7th/44th

There’s absolutely no way Barry Alvarez allows Melvin Gordon to go out on a two-game whimper after a record-setting junior season, right? You can also bet that MELGOR isn’t going to be extra motivated to prove that Ohio State game was a complete fluke.

Standing on the opposite end is a pretty good, but not great Auburn rush defense. One look at the Georgia game should have Badger fans salivating, as both Nick Chubb and Todd Gurley went for over 100 yards. Given the fact that we’ve seen both Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement go off for over 100 yards on multiple occasions that has to be the formula you use.

However, those were two of just four 100-yard rushers that Auburn has allowed all season long.

This battle is going to be won up front, and it isn’t very often you see the Badgers offensive line get beaten in run blocking. Don’t expect that to be the case this time around as UW comes out pissed about not being able to run the ball in the Big Ten championship game.

Advantage: Wisconsin (barely)

Auburn Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin Pass Defense:
AUB Pass Stats: 2,768 yards, 21 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, 230.7 yards per game, 14.4 yards per catch
UW Pass D Stats: 2,136 yards, 13 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 164.3 yards per game, 13.9 yards per catch

Team Rankings:
AUB Pass Off: 7th/65th
UW Pass D: 1st/4th

Wisconsin can get after the passer, racking up 36 sacks on the season but this Auburn offensive line is one of the, if not the, best lines the Badgers have seen all season long. Having the Rimington Award winner as your center (Reese Dismukes) doesn’t hurt at all.

However, what is really scary is the size and speed combination of Auburn’s wide receiver corp and the inexperience overall for Wisconsin’s secondary. If the Badgers don’t want a repeat of what happened against Ohio State it means players like Austin Hudson and Sojourn Shelton showing up in much more poised fashion. It also means Michael Caputo playing lights out on the line of scrimmage and Darius Hillary shutting Sammie Coates down.

We haven’t even talked about Nick Marshall, who is a great all-around quarterback and an underrated passer.

Overall, this could be the best offense not named Ohio State that Wisconsin has seen all season long. No doubt that the passing game is what should scare UW fans the most.

Advantage: Auburn

Auburn Rush Offense vs. Wisconsin Rush Defense:
AUB Rushing Stats: 3,102 yards, 30 touchdowns, 5.5 yards per carry, 258.5 yards per game
UW Rush D Stats: 1,546 yards, 17 touchdowns, 3.4 yards per carry, 118.9 yards per game

Team Rankings:
AUB Rush Off: 2nd/13th
Wis Rush D: 4th/17th

If there is a single matchup that will decide this game, look no further than Auburns run game against the Badgers run defense. That was proven out just about four weeks ago in the Big Ten championship game, as Ohio State controlled the game with the ability to get a running back and quarterback to go nuts on the ground.

Auburn has that same combination of quality at both positions, but has a much better running back in Cameron Artis-Payne. He led the SEC in rushing this season and comes in to this game with an apparent chip on his shoulder about not getting enough respect. He also took a shot at Melvin Gordon and his rushing record in the Big Ten (silly fool).

There’s also Nick Marshall, who ran for nearly 800 yards and Wisconsin didn’t bottle up Cardale Jones very well.

That said, the likes of Warren Herring and Marcus Trotter sure as heck want another go on the field. Erasing the bad memory of the B1G title game can be a huge driving factor. The question is, can this team keep up with the pace and athleticism in the run game.

It may be interesting, but it is hard to see how Auburn doesn’t have an advantage here given its quality offensive line, great running back and good quarterback.

Advantage: Auburn


Staff Predictions:

Andy (10-3 season record) – Wisconsin 38, Auburn 35

Barry Alvarez vs. Auburn, give me the old ball coach. Sure, Auburn of 2004 wasn’t running the spread or anything of that nature, but Wisconsin wasn’t nearly as athletic as it is now on defense back then either and look how that one turned out (28-10 Wisconsin for those who can’t remember). Beyond that, there’s that whole bad taste of a 59-0 loss to get rid of. Unlike the last coaching transition, this staff is much more stable and ready to coach these players to a win. I fully expect to see Melvin Gordon leave on the highest of high notes, surprising the pundits and helping the Big Ten to a pretty good New Year’s Day.



- Tanner McEvoy has more tackles than carries: We’ve heard all bowl practice how McEvoy is going to play safety along with quarterback in this contest, but I have a hunch we’re going to see him much more at safety than running the football. Personally, he’s got such great athletic ability that this move to safety in this game makes perfect sense. Hopefully it’s a permanent move too, because the more athletes in the defensive backfield the better in 2015.

- Melvin Gordon goes for 150 yards: Thursday will be the last time MELGOR is in a Badger uniform, and you can expect him to want it to be a highlight reel performance. Going for 150 yards against a team who has allowed just four 100-yard games by running backs this season would do just that. Look for him to have a touchdown early in the contest and to break at least one run of 30-plus yards.

- Nick Marshall is held under 250 yards of total offense: It isn’t often that Marshall is held under 250 yards of total offense, as he’s done that at least eight times all season long. However, if the Badgers have any hope of winning this game they will need to find a way to at least contain him in one facet of the game or the other. Don’t be surprised to see UW look to make him a pure passing quarterback and contain him in the run game, limiting his ability to get over the 250-yard mark.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com