Auburn Football: Five Tigers Key to a Victory in the Outback Bowl

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Sep 27, 2014; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams (1) celebrates an interception during the first half against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Jordan Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The Auburn football team takes an 8-4 record and a No. 19 national ranking into the Outback Bowl against 10-3, 18th ranked Wisconsin. The teams have already met on the ice for a hockey competition, and on the lanes for bowling, but will finally square off on the gridiron New Year’s Day in Tampa.

Both squads want to win the game, but both are also in transition with an eye on the future. Wisconsin has a new head coach after Gary Andersen unexpectedly left for Oregon State, and hall of fame coach and current athletic director Barry Alvarez has come out of retirement to coach the team and bridge the gap to new head coach Paul Chryst.

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Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn is still in charge for the Tigers (though athletic director Jay Jacobs may still have to fend off a few NFL teams to keep him), but Will Muschamp has been hired to replace Ellis Johnson as defensive coordinator.

Muschamp won’t coach in the Outback Bowl, and safeties coach Charlie Harbison will lead the defense in Tampa. However, Harbison, cornerbacks coach Melvin Smith and defensive line coach Rodney Garner may or may not be on the staff in the new year.

And, of course, they aren’t the only ones Auburn will need to replace in 2015.

The Tigers have relied on seniors like quarterback Nick Marshall, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, All-American center Reese Dismukes and tight end C.J. Uzomah, and departing junior receiver Sammie Coates to carry them on offense this season.

Similarly, the defense features experienced seniors like Jonathon Mincy, Robenson Therezie and Jermaine Whitehead in the secondary and Gabe Wright, Angelo Blackson and LaDarius Owens on the defensive line.

All those players will continue to play major roles in the Outback Bowl in their final games in orange and blue, but there are a number of under-the-radar underclassmen that Auburn football fans should keep an eye on.

With that in mind, here’s a closer look at five Auburn football players to watch in the Outback Bowl, and beyond.

Next: Wide Receiver Melvin Ray