INDIANAPOLIS - Wisconsin got the benefit of a quick turnaround following its two regular season losses, able to quickly get back on the winning track.
After its 59-0 embarrassment to No.6 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, the Badgers will get another chance to redeem itself, but will have to wait 25 days to prove itself.
After playing its way out of the four-team College Football Playoffs or any other committee-selected games, Wisconsin will try to end its 2014 season on a high note in the Outback Bowl against No.19 Auburn. The game will be 11 a.m. CT on New Year’s Day in Tampa. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
“We’ve got leaders and we’ve got to get on point,” said junior tailback Melvin Gordon. “We’ve got to get the young guys under our wings and let them know that Ohio State can’t beat us for two games.”
Dropping six spots to No.17 in the latest AP poll, Wisconsin (10-3) is looking to break a four game losing streak in bowl games. The Badgers dropped three straight Rose Bowls and lost 34-24 to South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl last January, Andersen’s first as the Badgers’ head coach.
The Badgers are also hoping to wash a sour taste in their mouths after being shutout for the first time since 1997 and suffering their worst loss since 1979.
“You get another chance to go out and show people that that wasn’t us,” said cornerback Sojourn Shelton. “We’re going to play a good team, so we’re going to have to fix whatever we have to fix and show everybody that this was just a miscue, a bump in the road and we’re ready to roll past it.”
Auburn (8-4, 4-4 SEC West) started off the season 7-1 and were ranked third in the College Football Playoff rankings before the Tigers dropped three of their final four games, including their last three SEC games vs. Texas A&M, at Georgia and at Alabama.
The series between the Badgers and Tigers is locked at 1-1-1 all-time, with two meetings coming in bowl games. The Tigers beat Wisconsin 28-14 in the 2003 Music City Bowl. The Badgers sent out former coach Barry Alvarez on the right note with a 24-10 victory in the 2005 Capital One Bowl.
Wisconsin is 11-14 is bowl games, including 2-3 against the SEC and 1-3 in Tampa.
“I think the group of guys we have we won’t have an issue bouncing back,” said quarterback Joel Stave. “This one is going to hurt for a while, but that’s what happens. We were fortunate to be in this situation. We had a very good year (and) won 10 games … As disappointing as it is, there is a lot of positives from this season. We’ve just got to look at those, learn from this week and get as much as we can out of bowl prep.”
Priority one is getting its momentum back. Senior linebacker Marcus Trotter put onus on himself for not being a better leader defensively. The badgers gave up 558 yards and eight touchdowns to Ohio State, who played its way into the College Football Playoffs as the fourth seed after trouncing the Badgers.
Junior left tackle Tyler Marz pointed to the team’s leadership council as being vital to keep players focused.
“A game like this can sit with you for three weeks and eat at you,” said Marz. “The goal needs to be to win this bowl game…You just need to focus on that team and go get a win.”
Wisconsin’s players will have off until midweek before starting preparations for the Tigers.
“In the locker room, (they had) an angry look in their eyes,” said Andersen. “A look of how do we stop this from happening again … and that’s my job to let them know how we’re not going to let that happen again. I look forward to the opportunity of evaluating and trying to help these kids understand how it’s not going to happen and help to not make it happen again.”