WHO: Minnesota (10-2) vs. Auburn (9-3)
WHAT: The 34th Outback Bowl
WHEN: January 1 at 1:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
THE SKINNY: PJ Fleck and Minnesota nearly rowed the boat to a Big Ten title shot before springing a few leaks down the stretch in division play. Regardless of falling shy of the goal of a Big Ten West Division championship, Fleck has Minnesota heading to the Outback Bowl full of confidence in what they can accomplish. Facing them will be an Auburn team led by freshman quarterback Bo Nix who is not at all short on confidence after his first season with the Tigers.
Nix has thrown for 2,366 yards and 15 touchdowns and run for 301 yards and seven touchdowns, so Minnesota will have to be concerned about keeping Nix from extending plays with his feet. For a defense that doesn’t exactly bring a tremendous amount of pressure up front, that could be a recipe for some unfortunate results for the upstart Gophers. It just so happens that Auburn could cause some big problems with their defensive front. The Tigers ranked third against the run in the SEC this season and allowed just nine touchdowns on the ground all year long. Marlon Davidson and Derrick Brown are among the SEC leaders in tackles for a loss this season. Both players could have skipped the bowl game to focus on their future in the NFL, but both have confirmed they intend to play in the game.
They will hope to find a way to rattle the Big Ten’s leading passer (in yards per game), Tanner Morgan. The sophomore passed for 2,975 yards and 28 touchdowns with six interceptions this season, and he owns one of the highest completion percentages in the Big Ten. Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson each had over 1,000 yards catching a combined 131 passes from Morgan, and each accounted for 11 touchdown receptions in the process.
Minnesota’s offense is as balanced as they come, but whether that will be enough to hold off the Auburn defense may be a tall order for these Gophers. Auburn obliterated Purdue last year. Minnesota will at least keep things considerably closer this year.
THE PICK: Auburn 33, Minnesota 17
You know we are getting close to award season in college football because it seems this week has been filled with announcements about semifinalists for every award possible. Welcome to the party, Lott IMPACT Trophy. A total of nine semifinalists were announced by the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which is awarded to the best defensive player with a focus on success on and off the field, integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity.
The nine semifinalists for this year’s Lott IMPACT Trophy are:
- Derrick Brown, DL, Auburn
- Cole Christiansen, LB, Army
- Jordan Fuller, DB, Ohio State
- Brandon Jones, DB, Texas
- Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
- Chris Orr, LB, Wisconsin
- Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
- Curtis Weaver, DL, Boise State
- Evan Weaver, LB, Cal
Linebacker remains a strong position for the Lott IMPACT Trophy this season, with five of the nine semifinalists playing a linebacker position.
This year’s recipient of the Lott IMPACT Trophy will be announced on Dec. 15 at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach. This list of nine semifinalists will be trimmed down to four finalists prior to the announcement.
Kentucky’s Josh Allen took home the award last season.
The final list of players left in the running for the Bronko Nagurski Award for the 2019 season has been released by the Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. Two players from the Big Ten and two from the SEC are joined by one player from the ACC.
Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr., and Ohio State defensive end Chase Young are the five finalists for the award for best defensive player in college football.
The winner for this year’s Nagurski Award will be announced at a banquet on Dec. 9. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is the keynote speaker for the banquet this year and former UCLA linebacker Jerry Robinson will be honored as this year’s Bronko Nagurski Legends Award winner.
Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen won the Nagurski Award last season. Clemson, Georgia and Ohio State all have had one player win the Naruski Award before. Champ Bailey won the award for Georgia in 1998. Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis won the award in 2006. Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers won the award in 2010. Auburn and Minnesota have never had a Bronko Nagurski Award winner and hope to add their first this season. Other past winners include Pitt’s Aaron Donald, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Boston College’s Luke Kuechley, Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh, Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, Michigan’s Charles Woodson, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald. The current head coach of the Northwestern Wildcats is the only two-time winner of the award, having done so in 1995 and 1996.
Auburn got some very good news this weekend from defensive tackle Derrick Brown. In a statement shared on his Instagram account on Sunday, Brown announced he is coming back to play his senior season for Auburn when he likely could have been an early round NFL draft pick in the spring.
“After talking with my family and coaches I have decided to return to Auburn for my final season,” Brown announced. “I want to leave Auburn with my degree and a championship. I can feel the momentum.”
Brown earned Second-Team All-SEC in 2018 in his second season as a full-time starter in the trenches for the Tigers. Brown recorded 48 tackles in 13 games with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks this past season. He also forced a fumble as a defensive force up front. Brown also became a father in late December, which fueled some speculation he may head right to the NFL to begin collecting NFL paychecks instead of waiting another year to get his pro career kickstarted.
With Brown returning to Auburn in 2019, the Tigers will have one big position squared away.