Northwestern vs. Auburn: 5 things to know about the Wildcats' Citrus Bowl opponent
The Northwestern Wildcats couldn’t quite get it done in the Big Ten title game against Ohio State on Saturday afternoon, but the Wildcats’ special season hasn’t ended yet. Northwestern will appear in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla., and take on the Auburn Tigers on New Year’s Day at 1 p.m. ET.
Northwestern went from being the B1G West’s last-place team in 2019 to advancing to the conference championship for the 2nd time in the past 3 seasons. The Wildcats had their chances to shock the college football world but lost to the Buckeyes 22-10 in Indianapolis once again.
Northwestern will come into the bowl matchup with a 6-2 record in what was an impressive turnaround. Reports came out Sunday morning that NFL teams are interested in the services of head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has been at Northwestern since 2006. Fans should be hoping he sticks around in Evanston with one of the most consistent programs in the conference.
Enough about Northwestern. Let’s take a look at Auburn.
1. Fired the head coach
After being on the hot seat seemingly his entire tenure at Auburn, Gus Malzahn finally departed on Dec. 13, the day after the Tigers’ regular season ended with a win on the road at Mississippi State. He finished his career at Auburn with an overall record of 68-34, and he led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship Game after his 1st season in 2013, where the Tigers lost to Florida State. Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele stepped in as the interim head coach for this game. The school has yet to announce the next full-time head coach. The Tigers finished the SEC regular season with a 6-4 record.
2. Who’s Kevin Steele?
The man who will lead the Tigers against Northwestern has been the Auburn defensive coordinator since 2016. He bounced around many college programs since his coaching career started in 1980 at Tennessee. Steele has been the defensive coordinator at Alabama, Clemson and LSU. In his only time as a head coach, he ran the Baylor Bears from 1999-2002 and went 9-36, including 1-31 in the Big 12. As a player, Steele played linebacker for Furman and Tennessee before getting into coaching. He is among the coaches to be rumored for the Auburn head coaching position.
3. Skill position studs
Auburn has a few difference-makers on offense. The Tigers have 2 very good wide receivers in Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. Both appeared in all 10 games, and Williams caught 42 passes for 688 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Schwartz caught 54 balls for 636 yards with 3 touchdowns. At running back, Auburn appears to have a player who should lead the show for the next few years in Tank Bigsby. Appearing in all 10 games, he carried the ball 138 times for 834 yards and 5 touchdowns.
4. What about the QB?
Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix is a bit of a tough player to predict. Appearing in all 10 games, he completed 189 of 315 passes (60 percent) with 2,123 yards, 11 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Nix has also done quite a bit of damage in the ground game, carrying the ball 98 times for 356 yards with an additional 7 touchdowns.
5. Let’s talk defense
Auburn is fairly average on defense. The Tigers rank 60th in yards allowed per game, though they are 34th in points per game. Looking at other statistics, Auburn isn’t too scary on defense. The Tigers are 57th in yards per pass allowed and 68th in yards per rush allowed.