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Wisconsin vs. Auburn: Outback Bowl preview with College and Magnolia

Walt Austin from College and Magnolia, SB Nation's Auburn Site, stops by to provide an early preview of the Outback Bowl.

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John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

1. How did Auburn's season go? For Wisconsin fans who maybe weren't following the SEC much this year, what should they know?

Auburn's season went OK. It definitely didn't live up to the expectations of the fans after last season's amazing performance, but that's because fans always have unreasonable expectations. This team faced one of the hardest schedules in the country (multiple top-25 teams on the road) and finished with its two biggest rivals on the road with a cupcake between.

The SEC was an "anything goes" league this season. Everyone was losing to everyone else; including Alabama losing to Ole Miss. The SEC West was particularly brutal, though. There were very few losses by SEC West teams to anyone else in the nation (including to SEC East teams). Unfortunately, Auburn had one of its losses in its worst performance of the season against Georgia. The biggest issue was the defense, but I'll get to that.

2. What should we know about Auburn's offense in terms of personnel, scheme, etc.?

Auburn runs a hurry-up, no-huddle style of offense that really doesn't rely on schemes at all. It's about pace and speed. Style, not scheme. It doesn't matter if we're run-heavy or pass-heavy, as long as it's fast. We've got an excellent collection of works on the Xs and Os of offense and defense that you can find here.

The key has been the pace of play, which hasn't really been used as much this season as it was last season. It's still there to a certain extent, but Auburn has not played as fast. Part of that is because the offensive line lost a few key elements from last season, and our beast of a fullback graduated as well.

For personnel, Cameron Artis-Payne led the SEC in rushing, and we have some speedsters along with him. Duke Williams at wide receiver catches pretty much anything thrown within 5 yards of him. Sammie Coates is one of the fastest receivers I've ever seen (4.3 speed), but he has a bad habit of dropping easy passes. Then there's Nick Marshall. Marshall is one of the most clutch quarterbacks I've ever seen. He absolutely does not get rattled. He's improved dramatically as a passer, as you can see from his Iron Bowl stats where he threw for well over 400 yards against Alabama.

If you cheat up to stop the run, then Marshall, Williams and Coates will kill you deep. We may need to be able to do that to win, though. Two of Auburn's four losses (Mississippi State and Alabama) can be attributed to failure in the redzone.

3. And the defense?

Ahh, the defense. This is the reason Auburn is 8-4.

The defense was never able to put together 60 minutes of football consistently. It was put in a hole by turnovers on the offensive side of the ball against Mississippi State and allowed the Bulldogs to jump up big. Texas A&M scored 28 points in the first 20 minutes of the game and then only scored six points over the last 40. The defense held Georgia pretty well in the first half, but the offense sputtered and special teams kept giving the ball back.

This defense has caught a lot of grief -- as it should for giving up an Auburn record (on the bad side) for number of points against SEC teams -- but it's been put in position to where it was difficult. The defense isn't as bad as the numbers seem to indicate, but it's not that good, either. There is zero pass rush and the secondary is spotty at best. When the defensive backs are on, they're shut-down. When they're off, they let Amari Cooper get loose in single coverage and forget the single guy to cover him, too.

4. Is it safe to expect a sizable Auburn contingent will travel to Tampa?

Auburn travels very well. It's one of the reasons we tend to get pretty good bowl games -- like the Outback in 2009 -- even when we have not-great records. You can expect Auburn fans will sell out their ticket allotment and then some. They'll buy up everything on the secondary market that they can, too. It's seven hours from Auburn, so it's not outside the realm of a quick road trip.

5. Do you have an early prediction?

My early prediction is that it will resemble Auburn's last trip to the Outback Bowl. A lot of points and a lot of yards, with it coming down to who makes a stop. Y'all are going to be able to move the ball on us. I think we can move the ball on y'all. It may not be a high-scoring game, though, because both teams like to run the ball. So it will be a shootout, but possibly a low-scoring shootout due to limited possessions from the clock rolling on all of the running plays.