Thirteenth-ranked Northwestern (10-2, 7-1) looks to win just the third bowl game in school history when they take on No. 23 Tennessee (8-4, 5-3) in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on New Year's Day.
The Wildcats have an opportunity to win 11 games for the first time behind separate five-game winning streaks that landed Pat Fitzgerald’s team second in the Big Ten West behind. Northwestern began the season 5-0 and stayed in the AP Top 25 from Week 2 on after beating preseason No. 21 Stanford to open the season. After back-to-back losses to ranked teams in Michigan and Iowa, the Wildcats bounced back with a win over Nebraska to become bowl-eligible. The victory spurned the second streak, which ran through the end of the season, with the highlight being a 13-7 win at then-No. 25 Wisconsin.
Northwestern is led by their defense, which ranked No. 3 in the Big Ten with 16.3 points allowed. On offense, they’re paced by running back Justin Jackson, whose 1,344 rushing yards were No. 2 in the conference. The Wildcats’ last bowl victory was a 34-20 win over Mississippi State in the 2012 Gator Bowl. Before that, they hadn’t won a bowl game since the 1940s.
Tennessee is sixth all-time with 26 bowl wins has not won back-to-back bowl games in this century. The Volunteers can end that streak against Northwestern on New Year’s Day after finishing third in the SEC East. Tennessee got their season off to a cold start, losing home games to Oklahoma and Arkansas early on and starting out 2-3. A home win over Georgia was followed by one of the biggest tests then-No. 8 Alabama faced the entire season although the Crimson Tide outlasted the Volunteers, 19-14. They used the Alabama game as a springboard to a five-game winning streak to close the season in which all but one game was won by double-digits.
This is already the best Volunteer season under Butch Jones and Tennessee has an opportunity to win at least nine games for the first time since 2007 under Phillip Fulmer. The No. 5 offensive team in the SEC is led by running back Jalen Hurd, who ranked No. 5 in the SEC in rushing with 1,158 yards and totaled 13 touchdowns. Tennessee won the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl over Iowa, 45-28 . And in 26 matchups between the SEC and Big Ten since 2010, the SEC has gone 17-9.
TV Channel: ESPN2
Start Time: 12:00 p.m.
Live Stream Info: WatchESPN