Minnesota rolls into its bowl game behind an extraordinary season under head coach P.J. Fleck.

The Gophers put up 10 wins in a memorable year and were one win away from a B1G Championship Game showdown with Ohio State. Unfortunately, that came to a screeching halt with a loss to Wisconsin on the final day of the season, but it was nevertheless a strong run and impressive season for Minnesota.

Heading into bowl season, a ranked SEC opponent awaits the Gophers in the Auburn Tigers. Gus Malzahn’s squad does have three losses, but each one came to a team inside the top 10. It will undoubtedly be a good test for Fleck and company in the Outback Bowl.

Here are five things to know about Auburn heading into that showdown:

Dynamic but inconsistent freshman QB

Auburn definitely experienced some growing pains as the Tigers started freshman quarterback Bo Nix in the opener and allowed him to play through some struggles. For the season, Nix completed 57% of his passes for 2,366 yards and 15 touchdowns and added over 300 yards rushing with seven scores on the ground. Unfortunately, he struggled at times against good teams. When facing Florida and LSU on the road, Nix completed less than 45% of his throws. While he did complete 30-of-50 passes against a strong Georgia defense, he was off target on a crucial play late in the game that sealed the loss. Had Nix been better in one-possession losses to LSU and Georgia, the Tigers very well may have made the Playoff. Still, Nix has shown flashes and is a big part of Auburn’s offense, accounting for over 200 yards of offense and two touchdowns while leading a strong win over Alabama to end the season. He also pulled off a Week 1 comeback against Oregon with multiple timely plays.

Elite defensive front

The Tigers have a pair of senior defensive lineman that make life miserable for opposing offenses. Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown are matchup nightmare and have anchored the interior of Auburn’s defense all season long. Combined, Davidson and Brown have 23 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Add in junior DL Tyrone Truesdell who has five tackles for loss and three sacks, and it is a defensive front that can be tough for teams to handle. Everyone knows about Minnesota’s passing attack and strong wide receivers, but the Gophers love to run the ball to open things up. If they can find success on the ground against Auburn, that will be a good sign for the game. If they can’t, it will be a long afternoon for Tanner Morgan and company.

Head coach Gus Malzahn back to calling plays

While rising through the ranks, Malzahn made a name for himself as a brilliant offensive mind and play-caller. Over time, Malzahn relinquished play-calling duties, but he took control of the offense heading into 2019 with strong results. Despite playing Nix, a freshman, all season long, the Tigers averaged 34 points per game with nearly identical per game numbers running the ball and passing. That points per game number is also the highest since 2014 when Auburn averaged 35.5 points per game.

Success vs No. 1 LSU

No team has been able to take down LSU so far this season, but the Tigers have been the closest. Yes, even closer than Alabama. Auburn held LSU to 23 points in their contest, by far the lowest output for Ed Orgeron’s squad and the only game scoring less than 30 this season. Joe Burrow was still fantastic in the outing, throwing for 321 yards and a touchdown, but it was his only game without multiple passing touchdowns on the year. He also threw an interception. Obviously, a loss is still a loss at the end of the day, but it definitely speaks volumes to the talent on Malzahn’s roster when you go toe-to-toe with LSU this season. In Death Valley at that.

Stable of capable RBs

The Malzahn offense likes to move the ball in a variety of ways, but running the ball is a staple. For the season, the Tigers are averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and are not afraid to utilize a number of different ball carriers. Even without QB Bo Nix’s numbers, Auburn boasts four different players with more than 50 carries and 275 yards on the ground. If Minnesota wants to come away with a win, the Gophers will definitely need to find ways to stop the run.