Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA
Date and Time: January 2, 8:30 PM ET (ESPN)
The Auburn Tigers came into the season with a ton of question marks.
Would head coach Gus Malzahn still be with the team in 2017? Would the Tigers be able to find a quarterback? Would Auburn be able to successfully navigate a brutal schedule?
Questions like that led many people, myself included, to pick the Tigers to finish near the bottom of the SEC West.
But that didn’t happen. Malzahn removed himself from the hot seat by leading Auburn to an 8-4 mark, which was good enough for a second place finish in the always difficult West.
Sure, losses to rivals Georgia and Alabama weren’t ideal, but after finishing last in the division a year ago, this season was progress.
However, even more progress could be made with a win over Big 12 champion Oklahoma in New Orleans.
The Sooners will certainly present some challenges for Auburn’s defense, as Oklahoma sports two Heisman trophy finalists – quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Dede Westrbook – on its roster.
Bob Stoops saw his offense average 44.7 points per game this season (third in the nation), with Mayfield (44 combined touchdowns) and Westbrook (16 receiving TD’s) obviously leading the way.
Containing those two will be crucial for a Tiger defense that finished 20th in total defense.
Of course, perhaps Auburn’s biggest concern is what it’ll get out of its own offense. Quarterback Sean White should be healthy and ready to go by the time this game rolls around, so that’s great news for Malzahn’s squad.
If White can take care of the ball and make plays in the passing game, that’ll give the explosive Auburn rushing attack of Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson to find the same success that they have all season (sixth in the country in rushing offense with 278.5 YPG).
As always, in a game where you have two different styles, it’ll all come down to which team is able to impose their style of play on the other.
Oklahoma won’t steamroll the tough Auburn defense like it has to other defenses around the country this season. But it’s hard to pick against the Big 12 champs in this game.
The Sooners have been outstanding since starting the season 1-2, and that nine-game winning streak will give them more than enough confidence to pull out a close game at the Superdome.
Sugar Bowl Prediction: Oklahoma 29, Auburn 27
Other SEC Bowl Predictions
- Outback Bowl: Florida vs. Iowa
- TaxSlayer Bowl: Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech
- Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville
- Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Nebraska
- Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. TCU
- Belk Bowl: Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech
- Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina vs. USF
- Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
- Independence Bowl: Vandy vs. NC State
- St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH)