On Tuesday at a 3 p.m. CST team meeting, athletic director Jay Jacobs told Auburn players and staff members to expect the Tigers to play in Tampa. No official announcement has been made. That is expected to come on Sunday because the SEC Office has asked Auburn and the bowl officials to wait until then before making the official announcement.
The likely opponent is the Wisconsin Badgers with either Iowa or Penn State expected to be selected by the BCS for an at-large berth, but that may not be announced until following this weekend‘s games.
The Badgers are 8-3 on the season with a game left at Hawaii this Saturday night. If that happens it would be the fourth meeting overall between the two schools and the third since 2003. That year Auburn defeated the Badgers 28-14 at the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Wisconsin returned the favor following the 2005 season with a 24-10 win in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando. The only other meeting was a 7-7 tie in 1931 in Madison. If Wisconsin loses this week to Hawaii then Northwestern (8-4) could also be a possibility for the Big 10 representative in Tampa.
Auburn may be faced with the task of stopping big John Clay on New Year's Day.
A trp to Tampa would be Auburn's 34th bowl appearance and the first time in the Tampa game since dropping a 43-13 decision to Penn State following the 1995 season. Auburn's only other appearance in the game was when the Tigers defeated Ohio State 31-14 in what was then the Hall of Fame Bowl following the 1989 season.
Auburn is back on the bowl scene thanks to a big year offensively and a defense that has gotten better in recent games despite a lack of depth on that side of the ball. This season the Tigers averaged 32.9 points per game on offense and 432 yards while giving up 26.9 points and 353 yards.
Offensively, the Tigers are led by senior running back Ben Tate and fellow senior quarterback Chris Todd. Tate has rushed for 1,254 yards and eight touchdowns this season while Todd has thrown for 2,377 yards and a school record 21 touchdowns. Sophomore Darvin Adams is his top target with 48 receptions for 855 yards and eight touchdowns.
On defense junior Josh Bynes leads the Tigers in tackles with 94 while fellow junior linebacker Craig Stevens is next with 89 stops. Up front senior defensive end Antonio Coleman leads the SEC in sacks with nine and in tackles for lost yardage with 15 1/2. Senior cornerback Walter McFadden's four interceptions lead a defense with 12 total picks on the year.
Auburn is back in a bowl game following a one-year absence from postseason play last season. That brought a streak of seven consecutive bowl years to an end. The Tigers will be the first SEC Western Division team to play in the Outback Bowl since Alabama defeated Michigan 17-14 following the 1996 season.