Auburn Football: Five Wisconsin Badgers to Watch in the Outback Bowl

1 of 6

Nov 29, 2014; Madison, WI, USA; Wisconsin Badgers quarterback Joel Stave (2) hands the football off to running back Melvin Gordon (25) during the first quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, Wisconsin lost their last game 59-0. Don’t let that fool you. The Auburn football team (who hasn’t beaten an FCS opponent since November 1, by the way) will be playing a quality opponent – and one of the Big Ten’s most talented teams – in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day: the Wisconsin Badgers.

The Badgers are 10-3 this season, and won the Big Ten West. Because of their poor performance in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State, Wisconsin slipped to No. 18 in the final College Football Playoff rankings – one spot ahead of the Tigers.

Still, Wisconsin won seven games in a row following a 3-2 start thanks to a solid offense and a top-notch defense. The Badgers ranked fourth nationally with 314 rushing yards per game in the regular season and score a healthy 34.6 points on average, which ranks in the country’s top 30.

Before the embarrassing loss to Ohio State, Wisconsin ranked first in the Big Ten and fourth nationally in scoring defense having allowed 16.8 points per game across their first 12 contests.

Similarly, the Badgers led the conference and were second best in the country in total defense with 260.3 yards allowed per game (before Ohio State had 558) and also had the league’s best and nation’s second best overall passing defense at 156.6 yards allowed on average (the Buckeyes threw for 257 with a third-string quarterback).

Wisconsin also had a top ten defense against the run, and allowed 103.8 yards per game until the Buckeyes ran for 301.

The loss to Ohio State was bad, but a big reason for those solid statistics and double-digit wins is a core group of players that rank among the best in the Big Ten – if not the nation – at their position.

“I wanted to remind them that they won 10 games, and the last three, they had to earn the right to be division champion,” interim head coach/former head coach/current athletic director Barry Alvarez said recently. “The three games were all rivalry games, very physical games, four-quarter games. It’s a tough stretch, our guys battled it out.”

Here’s a closer look at five of those players that the Auburn Tigers will need to keep a very close eye on in the Outback Bowl.

Next: Wisconsin Quarterback Joel Stave