Monday Morning QB: Talking Outback, Playoffs

Discussing Auburn's game against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl, playoff top four, recruiting and more.

Auburn is headed for Tampa for the first time since the end of the 2009 season and when the Tigers get there they will face a familiar bowl opponent, the Wisconsin Badgers. It’s not the sexiest of games, but it’s a solid game for a team looking to build some momentum heading into the 2015 season.

While it’s not the first year of rebuilding the program like the last time Auburn was in the Outback Bowl, the Tigers will be hitting the ground fresh from a defensive perspective next season and building confidence against the Badgers would be a big plus for the Tigers heading into spring practice. With an offensive attack built largely around the talents of running back Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin should be a better fit for Auburn’s defense than a team that consistently throws the football down the field.

For Auburn’s offense the game is an opportunity to finish the careers, in style, of a large group of seniors. Featuring a defense that has dominated outclassed opponents, Wisconsin hasn’t fared as well against the most athletic teams they have faced this season. That started in the opener as LSU ran for just 126, but threw for 239 yards in a comeback win. The only other opponent on Wisconsin’s schedule that matches up from a skill-player perspective is Ohio State and Wisconsin never slowed the Buckeyes in a 59-0 loss in the Big 10 title game.

Auburn will likely see a different Badgers’ defense on Jan. 1, but the Tigers should have the opportunity to make plenty of big plays with Nick Marshall and company on offense.

Top Four

It’s hard to argue with the top three teams in the college football playoffs, even if you disagree with the order of the teams. When it comes to number four, however, there is plenty to discuss with Ohio State leaping to that spot after its blowout win over Wisconsin on Saturday night. The biggest loser in the whole process was the Big 12 with TCU and Baylor both being shut out of the final four. While you can blame the selection committee, I think this one falls directly on Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Instead of promoting Baylor to be the conference champion by virtue of its head-to-head win over TCU, he instead left the committee with a way out by not declaring a champion at all. They say in football that when you’ve got two quarterbacks you’ve really got none. Sunday the Big 12 showed that when you’ve got two champions then you really don’t have one at all.

On The Road

Auburn’s coaches have been busy recruiting since walking off the field in Tuscaloosa to end the regular season. Checking in on commitments and prospects from all over the country, Gus Malzahn and his staff are working hard to have a strong finish for the 2015 class. I got to witness some of that work last week at the Super 7 at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Malzahn, Rhett Lashlee, J.B. Grimes, Tim Horton and Casey Woods all showed up early and often to watch the state title games. Not only was that about seeing commitments such as Darrell Williams and Kerryon Johnson in action as well as up-and-coming prospects in Alabama, it was also about visiting with high school coaches from around the state to make them feel welcome on the Plains. That is a huge part of what this staff does very well and it will only continue to help the recruiting efforts down the road in Alabama.

Alabama-Mississippi Week

Speaking of recruiting efforts in Alabama, this week is the annual Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic in Montgomery and it’s the opportunity to get to see many of the top players in action. In addition to Williams and Johnson, Auburn will have commitments Richard McBryde, Tyler Carr and Jalen Harris in action this week.

Among the players to keep a close watch on is defensive tackle Daron Payne. Looking at the Tigers, Alabama and Mississippi State, Payne is one of the key recruits for the Tigers with a huge need at defensive tackle next year and beyond.

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