Auburn Outback Bowl Preview: Wisconsin Badgers Offense

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Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon (25) rushes for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin won 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t let the score of their last game fool you. When the Auburn football team takes the field in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, they will be playing a quality opponent from the Big Ten: the Wisconsin Badgers.

Prior to the 59-0 shellacking in Indianapolis, the Badgers were rolling. After a 3-2 start, including a 28-24 season opening loss to LSU and a 20-14 loss to Northwestern in their first Big Ten game, Wisconsin finished the regular season with seven consecutive victories over conference opponents.

However, with their eyes on the prize of a fourth Big Ten title in five seasons, the Badgers were humiliated by the Buckeyes, who used the dominant performance to catapult themselves into the College Football Playoff.

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Then, Wisconsin lost their head coach – Gary Andersen – who left for Oregon State. It was the second time in three seasons that the program has lost a head coach to what the natives consider an inferior job.

As a result, hall of fame coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez was forced to go out and hire a new head coach, and nabbed former Badgers assistant Paul Chryst from Pittsburgh. To oversee the transition, Alvarez will lead the team in the Outback Bowl against the Tigers.

And he’ll have an impressive offense at his disposal.

The 10-3 Badgers led the Big Ten and rank fourth nationally with 314 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin ranks near the bottom of the national standings with only 150.8 passing yards per contest, but score a robust 34.6 points on average, 30th best among FBS teams.

On the other side of the field, the Auburn defense has struggled stopping the run and the pass in the second half of the season. The Tigers have allowed 196.7 rushing yards over the last six games against FBS opponents, as well as 285.8 yards per game through the air over the same stretch. Those results led to the firing of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

In Johnson’s absence, Charlie Harbison will call the defense in the Outback Bowl, helping to bridge the gap to new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. The defensive scheme won’t change much, if at all, under Harbison, and Wisconsin could have a very good New Year’s Day offensive performance.

Next: Wisconsin Quarterbacks