Quarterback Mike Kafka will lead the Wildcats against the Auburn Tigers on New Year's Day in Tampa. Northwestern is seeking its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl and also will play the Tigers for the second straight season. (In the 2008 Alamo Bowl, NU fell in overtime to the Missouri Tigers.)
Last year, the Cats finished with a better record than Iowa and won the head-to-head matchup, but the team was still leapfrogged by the Hawkeyes for the Outback. This season, Wisconsin finished with one more victory but it's Northwestern's turn to jump, possibly based on the Wildcats victory over Wisconsin at Ryan Field in the final game of the regular season. The 2000 co-conference champion Cats were also passed over by the Outback.
This will be the first New Year's Day bowl appearance for NU since 1997, when Citrus Bowl MVP Peyton Manning completed 27 of 39 passes for 408 yards and four TDs in a 48-28 Tennessee win. It'll be Northwestern's first-ever appearance in the Outback Bowl. And finally, it will be the first meeting in history between the two opponents.