The Minnesota Daily called up Jake Weese, sports writer for The Auburn Plainsman, the student newspaper of Auburn University, to preview the Gophers' Outback Bowl matchup against the Auburn Tigers on New Year's Day.
Auburn's losses this season have come against some of the best teams in the nation, and the Tigers ended the regular season with a victory over Alabama. How did the team and fans feel the season went?
I would say before the Iron Bowl, people were not happy with the season at all. Most of the fan base was quick to place blame on the offense, and some of it was warranted. The offense had not played its best against LSU and some of the better teams. Against Florida, for instance, they had some trouble. Since the Iron Bowl, things have picked up. People are pretty happy with the result right now. I know from the team standpoint, head coach Gus Malzahn really wants to get to that 10th win.
Freshman quarterback Bo Nix has had some ups and downs. What did you make of his play this year?
That quarterback room is pretty young. Before the season, it was Nix and redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood. That was a pretty young room and it still is now, even with Gatewood leaving. Nix, I thought played pretty well, he had his ups and downs this season. He kind of struggled on the road, he played a lot better at home, which is expected for a freshman in the SEC. It will be interesting to see him again at a neutral site.
Defensive lineman Derrick Brown is one of the best players in the nation, what makes him so challenging for opponents?
What makes Brown so challenging — and really the Auburn defensive line in general — is that teams typically have to double Brown, which leads the way for other defensive linemen like Marlon Davidson to get in there and sack the quarterback or make a play behind the line of scrimmage. Brown is just really explosive, he's great at stopping the run. Auburn really did a good job this season against the run. Every game he makes a play that makes you say, "Wow." He just got announced as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and that is definitely warranted.
What was the difference in the Alabama game that allowed Auburn to break through against a top-tier opponent?
I would say, and I think a lot of people would agree, that was Auburn's best game offensively. Things just clicked against Alabama from all aspects of offense and special teams as well. Kicker Anders Carlson made four field goals from over 40 yards out. He had really been struggling from that distance and just struggling in general before then. Those kicks were huge. Another thing that went right for Auburn is it managed to finish drives on offense. That's something they had struggled with this season, both at home and on the road. The offensive line played one of its best games of the season. They were the first team this season to not allow a sack to Alabama.
What will be the key to Auburn defeating Minnesota?
A big key will be the play of Bo Nix and his continued development. He is the big key because Auburn likes to establish the run and if he is not having a good game and is facing a lot of pressure, has hands in his face, and Auburn tries to go back to the run, Minnesota will be expecting it. So, the play of Nix will be the big key for Auburn.
Best offensive player?
Running back JaTarvious Whitlow and wide receiver Seth Williams
Best defensive player?
Defensive lineman Derrick Brown
Linebacker K.J. Britt
Score prediction against Minnesota?