Daily Breakdown: Minnesota vs. Auburn

The Gophers will have their hands full with No. 12 Auburn.

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman scores a touchdown on the first drive of the Gopher game at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, Nov. 30.

Parker Johnson

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman scores a touchdown on the first drive of the Gopher game at TCF Bank Stadium Saturday, Nov. 30.

John Miller

The Gophers are going to Tampa Bay, Florida to play in the Outback Bowl against the Auburn Tigers on New Year’s Day.

The No. 18 Gophers are coming off one of their best seasons in over 100 years, finishing 10-2 overall and second in the Big Ten West.

Auburn is coming off a 9-3 season, ranked as the No. 12 team in the country. Auburn’s losses have come to three top-10 teams: LSU (1), Georgia (5) and Florida (9), while defeating Alabama (13). 

When Minnesota runs the ball

The Gophers run game struggled down the stretch. In three out of their last four games, Minnesota failed to average over 3.5 yards per carry, with the outlier coming against a struggling Northwestern team.

Despite the poor rushing to end the season, Minnesota still finished as one of the better rushing teams in the country, ranking No. 47 and averaging 175.7 yards rushing per game. Sixth-year senior Rodney Smith was the bell cow back for Minnesota, averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 212 rushes for 1,094 yards.

Minnesota will be up against one of the best rushing defenses in the country. Auburn is the No. 21 ranked defense against the run, holding opposing rushers to 115.5 yards per game and 3.41 yards per carry.

Matchup to watch

Minnesota running back Rodney Smith vs. Auburn junior linebacker K.J. Britt

Advantage: Auburn

When Auburn runs the ball:

In the SEC, one the the best conferences in the nation, the Tigers had no problem rushing the ball. Auburn was No. 26 in the nation in rushing yards per game. They rushed for 211 yards per game on 4.83 yards per carry.

Auburn’s rushing attack was lead by sophomore running back JaTarvious Whitlow. On the year, he averaged five yards per carry on 147 attempts for 739 yards rushing along with nine touchdowns. 

The Gophers’ defense wasn’t too far behind Auburn in stopping opposing rushers. Minnesota’s defense finished the regular season as the No. 28 rushing defense, only allowing 127.9 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry.

Matchup to watch:

Auburn’s JaTarvious Whitlow vs. Minnesota’s senior linebacker Kamal Martin.

Advantage: Auburn

When Minnesota passes the ball

Star wide receivers senior Tyler Johnson and sophomore Rashod Bateman were named first-team All-Big Ten. It’s the first time in conference history that a program has had two wide receivers named to the first team

Both receivers eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving, as Johnson had 74 receptions for 1,114 yards receiving and Bateman finished with 57 receptions  for 1,170 yards. The receivers both finished in the top 20 for yards per game in the NCAA.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tanner Morgan had a season no one expected. Morgan finished the year as the No. 6 quarterback in the nation in passing efficiency with a rating of 180.4 and No. 19 in completion percentage, completing 66.1% of his passes.

Auburn’s defense ranked No. 41 in passing yards allowed per game. On average, they gave up 208.4 yards per game. Despite their success, they’ll have their hands full with Minnesota’s passing attack.

Matchup to watch:

Minnesota senior wide receiver Tyler Johnson vs. Auburn junior cornerback  Noah Igbinoghene.

Advantage: Minnesota 

When Auburn passes the ball

The Tigers had some trouble throwing the ball this year. Auburn was the No. 85 team in the nation in passing yards per game, averaging 210.1 yards per game.

The Tigers passing attack is lead by freshman quarterback Bo Nix and sophomore wide receiver Seth Williams. The freshman Nix finished the year with 2,366 yards passing with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions, but only completed 57% of his passes. Williams led the receivers with 55 receptions for 801 yards and eight touchdowns. 

Minnesota’s pass defense is stout. The Gophers defense finished the season ranked No. 11 in passing yards allowed, giving up 184.9 yards per game. The unit is led by redshirt sophomore safety Antoine Winfield Jr. who finished the year with with seven interceptions, the fourth most in the country. He was chosen for the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award, which goes to the best defensive back in the Big Ten.

Matchup to watch:

Auburn’s Seth Williams vs. Minnesota redshirt junior cornerback Coney Durr. 

Game Information:

Time: 12 p.m. CST

Location: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida

Television: ESPN

Radio: KFAN 100.3

Betting Line: Auburn -7.5