That day the combination of future NFL running back Robert Turbin and athletic quarterback Chuckie Keeton pushed Auburn to the limit before the Tigers made a late comeback to win 42-38. Malzahn said knowing what the Tigers saw out of the coaching staff then it doesn’t surprise him to be facing them once again, this time in a bowl game.
“I think we had to successfully get an onside kick and score in the last minute of the game to beat them," Malzahn points out. "They were very sound and very well-coached. I thought their defense was very well-coached. It doesn’t surprise me they are at Wisconsin now.”
While Auburn won’t have to face Turbin this time around, it will have to deal with an even better runner in Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon. One of the most productive and explosive running backs in college football history, Gordon has 2,336 rushing yards this season on 309 carries, an average of 7.6 yards per carry. The amazing thing is that is actually lower than his career average of 7.8 yards per carry. Malzahn knows the challenge facing his defense on Jan. 1 starts with Gordon.
“He’s one of the better running backs in the country,” Malzahn said. “We saw them earlier in the year on film against LSU and he was electric. You could tell he’s got another gear and he’s had a great year. They have got a big offensive line. I haven’t had a chance to study everything in detail, but big-picture they are very good at running the football and he’s one of the better running backs in the country.”
Nick Marshall leads the Auburn attack
Anderson knows the challenge waiting for his team as well following a disappointing effort in a blowout loss to Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game. With one opportunity to face a Malzahn offense four years ago, he said it will present some big problems for his defense when they hit the field in Raymond James Stadium.
“They have two or three new tweaks a year,” Anderson said of the offense. “It was very difficult to defend on that day and I’m sure it’s going to be very difficult to defend again. The key is to look at where the athletes are and try to contain them and still be sound. We showed in this last game we were not prepared to deal with the athletes on the field. We were not prepared as a team to be able to handle it. We’ve got a lot of work to do to be able to defend a very talented offense.
“I know, looking back and thinking back briefly to the Utah State-Auburn game, they want to run the ball and throw the ball down the field,” he added. “It’s a good mix of run and pass. They’ve got a running quarterback again this year and they had a running quarterback then. It will be a tremendous challenge for us on the defensive side of the ball.”Purchase Bowl Tickets