Auburn at Mississippi State

Tank Bigsby will finish one of the top seasons by an Auburn freshman in the Citrus Bowl against Northwestern. [TODD VAN EMST/AUBURN ATHLETICS]

What: Citrus Bowl

When: noon today

Where: Orlando, Florida

TV/radio: ABC/FM-94.9

The line: Northwestern by 3

Records: Auburn (6-4), No. 15 Northwestern (6-2)

Series: Auburn leads 1-0 (January 2010 Outback Bowl, 38-35 in overtime)


Four-down territory

1. Lame duck: Though Auburn has hired Bryan Harsin as its head coach, interim coach/defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will lead the Tigers in the bowl game. Harsin told Auburn players to give Steele and the staff of fired Gus Malzahn “your undivided attention” and to “do it the right way.”

2. Big-play Bigsby: Running back Tank Bigsby, barring a 259-yard effort Friday, will rank second on Auburn’s all-time freshman rushing list. Bigsby’s impact isn’t limited to running the ball.

Bigsby has 14 plays of at least 20 yards this season (six rushing, eight on kick returns), which is tied with Seth Williams (all receiving). Quarterback Bo Nix has had 27 passes go for at least 20.

Bigsby has 834 yards rushing. Michael Dyer’s 1,093 in 2010 is the most by an Auburn freshman.

3. Top rookie: Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph was the only rookie named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.

Joseph was Northwestern’s first defensive player so honored since Pat Fitzgerald in 1996. Fitzgerald, a linebacker then, is now Northwestern’s coach.

Joseph was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year and is tied for first in the nation with six interceptions. Georgia Southern’s Derrick Canteen also has six.

4. 200-tackle club: Northwestern is the only Power 5 team to have three active players with at least 200 career tackles.

Paddy Fisher’s 392 tackles and 11 forced fumbles are the most by an active player. Blake Gallagher has 322 tackles, while Chris Bergin has 218.

Zakoby McClain’s 161 lead Auburn.


Key matchup

Auburn RB Shaun Shivers vs. Northwestern LB Blake Gallagher

Shaun Shivers (or Tank Bigsby) will have to account for Northwestern linebacker Blake Gallagher. Gallagher has a Wildcats-best 9½ tackles for loss and is tied with Paddy Fisher with a team-high 74 tackles. Gallagher has reached double-figure tackles in 10 of his career 13 games.


Player of the week

Bo Nix, QB

Bo Nix’s relative inconsistency comes up against Northwestern safety Brandon Joseph, one of the nation’s interception leaders. Nix has 2,123 yards passing and 11 touchdowns this season to go with seven interceptions. Joseph has intercepted six passes.


By the numbers

51: Seasons in which Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz has coached college football. He’s in his 13th year with the Wildcats and his teams are a combined 399-206-7.

48: Wins in one-possession games by Northwestern in coach Pat Fitzgerald’s 15 seasons.

5-10: Northwestern’s all-time bowl record, of which four wins have been with Fitzgerald either in uniform or on the sideline. The exception: a 1949 Rose Bowl victory over Cal.

2008: Year Fitzgerald was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was a two-time All-America linebacker at Northwestern and the first two-time winner of both the Bednarik and Nagurski awards.



Northwestern 23, Auburn 20

Northwestern is no scoring machine and hasn’t exceeded 28 points since a season-opening 43-3 win over Maryland. Three of Auburn’s losses were to teams ranked in the Top 5 at the time. The Tigers have weathered a rougher road, but they also could be smarting from the embarrassment of getting their coach fired.

— A. Stacy Long

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