5 Thoughts On The Outback Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Outback Bowl...

Jan. 1 Outback Bowl
Wisconsin 34, Auburn 31 OT

And You Care Because … Auburn’s Daniel Carlson’s overtime field goal attempt hit off the right upright after Rafael Gaglianone hit a 25-yarder in the extra frame to give Wisconsin the win. Gaglianone also nailed a 25-yarder to force overtime following a long Auburn scoring drive finished off by a two-yard Cameron Artis-Payne scoring run. Melvin Gordon ran wild, taking off for touchdown runs from 25, 53 and six yards out, but Auburn kept pace the whole way highlighted by a 66-yard Ricardo Louis touchdown catch in the second and a 20-yard C.J. Uzomah scoring play in the fourth. Neither team was ever ahead by more than one score.
What Else? Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon ran 34 times for 251 yards and three scores
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 15-of-22 passes for 217 yards and two scores, and ran seven times for 18 yards
- Rushing yards: Wisconsin 400 – Auburn 219
- Third down conversions: Auburn 4-of-12 – Wisconsin 3-of-12
Game Rating: A

By Pete Fiutak
1. It might have just been one game, and it might have been just for a bowl and not a playoff, but Barry Alvarez just swooped in from behind his desk and outcoached Gus Malzahn on the way to a win. Wisconsin outrushed and outthought Auburn, especially in overtime when three bad Tiger play calls led to the offense going absolutely nowhere. No, Alvarez couldn’t bring home the 2013 Rose Bowl against Stanford, but he helped Wisconsin make up for the embarrassing Big Ten championship performance and stopped an ugly bowl slide.

And he did it while beating an SEC team, too.

This isn’t the Auburn team of last year, and it’s not nearly as efficient or as explosive, but it was still a talented, strong team that had some tremendous moments. But for a Badger team that started out the season collapsing against LSU, and didn’t have any truly high-end wins – Nebraska and Minnesota were close – this was a sweet victory. This was the program closing out the season on a high note for the first time since the 2009 Champs Sports win over Miami and for just the second time since beating Arkansas in the 2007 Capital One. It might have been Alvarez’s win, but call this the tone-setter for Paul Chryst and the Badger program going forward.

Yeah, it really is okay to beat good teams in bowl games.

By Rich Cirminiello

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3. Okay, it’s time to ask the question - Was the SEC West more bark than bite this year? The teams look great when you turn the television on, but if the best division within the best league was the beast that we all thought, it doesn’t lose so many games in the bowl season. First it was Ole Miss, then Mississippi State, then LSU, and now Auburn. Though you can never point to common opponents and draw a firm conclusion, let’s remember that this Badger team is the same team that just got blasted by an Ohio State team getting ready to go against another SEC West team in Alabama tonight.

Maybe the league and division got too much credit for beating up on each other instead of making tons of statements outside of the conference. The gap between the SEC and other leagues simply isn’t as great as many would have you believe, and we are seeing that this post-season.

It’s a great win for the Big Ten, but even still, unless Ohio State shows up tonight, it won’t matter. There is still a big gorilla on the back of a Buckeye program that has been carrying the torch for the Big Ten. There’s been way too many losses to SEC teams on the big stage, and this Wisconsin win will only serve as footnote, and forgotten quickly if Urban Meyer can’t knock out the giant tonight.

4. What’s next for Wisconsin
New head coach Paul Chryst will have to rely on Corey Clement to be the new main man for the ground game now that Melvin Gordon is gone, but the bigger early problem could be the lien that has to replace Kyle Costigan and Rob Havenstein off the right side and Dallas Lewallen at left guard. Will the Badgers finally have a passing game? Quarterbacks Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy are both back, as are receivers Alex Erickson, Jordan Fredrick and Reggie Love, but they all have to be far better.

The defense that had to undergo an overhaul lose Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch on the inside, but get back Joe Schobert and Vince Biegel on the outside, The line should be fantastic despite the loss of end Warren Herring, and the secondary should be among the best in the Big Ten with CB Sojourn Shelton and all four starters returning. PK Rafael Gaglianone returns after a decent year, but P Drew Meyer has to get more of a blast.

5. What’s next for Auburn
The Tigers had to do some rebuilding this year, and it’s going to have to do more of the same with the loss of Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant from the backfield. QB Nick Marshall is back, but he loses star WR Sammie Coates early to the NFL. D’haquille Williams is too good not to be in the NFL, but Ricardo Louis and Marcus Davis should be decent weapons. Stalwart C Reese Dismukes is done along with RG Chad Slade, but the rest of the line returns.

The defense has to be better, but at least it’ll be experienced with three starters returning to the line along with enough depth to form a good rotation. The linebacking corps will be excellent with Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost coming back, and the secondary has options to replace the two lost starters, FS Jermaine Whitehead and CB Jonathan Mincy. Daniel Carlson had a strong first year as both a punter and placekicker, and he should turn into one of the nation’s best dual-threat kickers.

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