Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs. Northwestern odds, preview, and pick
The Auburn Tigers will line up against the Big Ten runner-up Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.
Let's take a look at the matchup and make a pick.
Auburn vs. Northwestern
Fri, January 1 2021, 6:00 PM
Auburn ready for life after Malzahn
After a 6-4 regular season, Auburn finally parted ways with head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers have failed to finish better than third in the SEC West since 2017.
The decision came after a blowout loss to rival Alabama, a fourth-quarter collapse against Texas A&M, and a struggle for three quarters against a bad Mississippi State team.
Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will lead the team in the Citrus Bowl, before Bryan Harsin takes the reins for 2021.
Steele’s defense allows fewer than 24 points per game, but that number was skewed by playing four bad offenses. In their three defeats to ranked opponents, the Tigers were outscored 100-39. They also do not rank in the top 60 in any major defensive category, despite six victories against teams with a combined 22-37 record.
Auburn quarterback Bo Nix regressed in his second season, and in Auburn’s four losses, he accounted for just four touchdowns and committed six turnovers. He also failed to throw for more than 220 yards in five games, and in those three defeats to ranked teams, he averaged just 5.42 yards per attempt.
The bright spot on offense has been freshman running back Tank Bigsby, who rushed for 192 yards against Mississippi State and has four 100-yard games this season.
Northwestern looks to extend bowl streak
After it failed to win a bowl game in more than 60 years, Northwestern is vying for its fourth consecutive bowl win. The Big Ten West champ led Ohio State, 10-6, heading into halftime of the Big Ten Championship Game, but the Wildcats were run over by running back Trey Sermon in the second half. He ran for 331 of Ohio State’s 399 rushing yards in the title game.
Northwestern entered the Big Ten Championship Game allowing an average of 121 rushing yards per contest. The Wildcats will need Paddy Fisher, the conference’s top linebacker, to step up with a better performance against an Auburn rushing attack that averages more than 170 yards on the ground per game.
Offensively, Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey needs to protect the football. In Northwestern’s two defeats, he threw a pair of interceptions in each game and had no touchdown passes. In their six victories, he tossed nine touchdown passes and threw only four interceptions.
Will Northwestern cover the spread against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl?
Northwestern will handle Auburn easily
Northwestern may be playing its final game for head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who is expected to be a candidate for multiple NFL jobs.
He has turned around the program, and his players love to play for him. His defense is terrific, and it has done better against good teams than the Auburn stop unit.
Given Nix’s struggles against good defenses this season, I like Northwestern to win this game handily and secure its fourth-consecutive bowl victory in a low-scoring game.