"We are very excited about the opportunity to play in the Outback Bowl against an outstanding Northwestern team," Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. "This is a tremendous reward for our football players as well as our fans that have been so supportive of our program this season. We want the Auburn fans to continue that great support by traveling to Tampa Bay to enjoy the many activities in the area and cheer on the Tigers on January 1."
Coach Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats come into the game on a roll, winners of their last three games including a defeat of Wisconsin 33-31 in the final regular season game. Northwestern also defeated Iowa 17-10 with its losses coming to Syracuse, Minnesota, Michigan State and Penn State.
A team that relies on scoring points to win game for the most part, the Wildcats averaged 25.2 points per game this season while allowing 23.3 to the opposition. Through the air is how they do the most damage as 266 of their 386 total yards per game come via the pass led by quarterback Mike Kafka. He is completing 65.7 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
On the ground Kafka is one of four runners over 200 yards for the season with Arby Fields the leader with just 294 yards. Kafka's seven rushing touchdowns are part of 17 on the year for the Wildcats.
Defensively, Northwestern allows 334 yards per game with just 123.5 of that on the ground. Opponents are averaging 220.5 passing yards versus the Wildcats and have thrown 17 touchdowns, but 15 costly interceptions. Senior safety Brad Phillips leads the team with 84 tackles while linebacker Quentin Davie has 81 tackles and leads the team with four sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
It will be Auburn's 34th bowl appearance and the first time in the 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.
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 with nine sacks and 15 ½ tackles for a loss. Senior cornerback Walter McFadden's four interceptions lead a defense with 12 total picks on the year.
It will be Auburn's first appearance in the game since losing to Penn State following the 1995 season. For Tampa it was a no-brainer bringing the Tigers back.
"When we heard of the Auburn fans chanting at the end of Friday's game ‘It's great to be an Auburn Tiger' we knew there was something special about the excitement around this football team," Jim McVay, Outback Bowl President/CEO said. "The Tigers have everything we are looking for in a New Year's Day team - they are a tough, exciting team, extremely well coached and have what might be the best fans in college football."
Auburn is also excited about returning to Tampa as Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said about the chance to play in the Sunshine State on New Year's Day.
"On behalf of the entire Auburn Family, we are absolutely thrilled to accept an invitation to play in the 2010 Outback Bowl," Jacobs said. "Auburn has tremendous fans and I know that they will enjoy the Tampa Bay area and support Coach Chizik and the Tigers during bowl week. We want to see Raymond James Stadium packed with Auburn orange and blue on New Year's Day."
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 10 a.m. CST and will be shown live on ESPN. It will be the first ever meeting between Auburn and Northwestern.
Tickets for the Outback Bowl are $70 and may be purchased through the Auburn Ticket Office via auburntigers.com or by calling 1-800-AUB-1957. For the best seats, fans are strongly encouraged to place orders through the Auburn Athletic Department. Online orders through auburntigers.com received by December 9 will not be charged for shipping and handling.
All TUF members will receive 50 TUF ticket priority points per ticket purchased up to a maximum of 500 total points, for orders placed through Auburn Athletics.