Friday looks to be the most interesting day of bowl season to date, as we have three solid matchups of evenly matched squads to look forward to. The first game of the day features two teams whose overall records on the season leave something to be desired, but don’t let that scare you off: both of them are better than their 2018 win-loss totals suggest.
The 6-6 Purdue Boilermakers face off with the Auburn Tigers in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The Boilermakers bring an aggressive offense to the table and one of the nation’s most explosive players in freshman wideout Rondale Moore. The Tigers’ record is certainly disappointing by their standards, but the team still boasts a stout defense that one would expect from a tough SEC squad.
It looks like a fantastic way to spend a Friday afternoon during holiday week. Let’s break this intriguing contest down in full detail, starting with the game line.
Purdue vs. Auburn, 1:30 PM EST, Fri. December 28, ESPN
Purdue vs. Auburn pick:
Purdue started off the season on the wrong foot by losing three straight. It was a frustrating stretch to say the least, as the Boilermakers lost those three games by a combined eight points. The ship wa quickly righted, as Purdue turned around and ripped off four consecutive wins. However, the struggles would return at the end of the year as the team won just two of its final five contests.
Auburn opened up the season with a bang by taking down Washington on a neutral field in Georgia. The team’s strong play continued as the Tigers won three of the next four, but the team ran into a rough patch while dropping back-to-back games to Mississippi State and Tennessee. Auburn rebounded somewhat to win three of its final five.
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While Purdue’s overall record suggests the season was a yawner, that’s just not the case. Three of the Boilermakers six victories came over nationally-ranked squads, including a huge home upset over the Ohio State Buckeyes, who entered that contest ranked #2 in the nation. However, Purdue needed a victory in the final game of the season over Indiana to secure bowl eligibility.
Auburn’s 2018 resume includes a pair of victories over nationally ranked teams, but they also came up short a handful of times versus other top teams. Big victories over Washington and Texas A&M are offset by the fact that the Tigers came up short versus LSU, Georgia, and Alabama. While those are three of the top programs in the nation, it’s nonetheless a disappointment to drop games to three tough conference foes.
In a nutshell, Purdue gets the edge on offense while Auburn is much stronger on defense. The Boilermakers offense has flown under the radar in 2018 due to the team’s middle of the road record, but it really shouldn’t. Head coach Jeff Brohm employs an aggressive approach, and that makes Purdue a dangerous opponent for any team they face.
Auburn’s disappointing record aside, we can say the same thing about them on the defensive side of the ball. The Tigers do an excellent job with pressure, and they make for an imposing matchup for everyone they face as a result. Auburn gets the nod in turnover margin and penalty yards per game to boot.
There’s no historical data to consider for previous matchups, so we can move right along to recent bowl game history. Purdue was invited to the Redbox Bowl after last season to face off with Arizona. They walked off the field with a 38-35 victory. Prior to that, we have to go back to 2013 for the last time the team went bowling, a 58-14 loss to Oklahoma n the First Responders Bowl.
Auburn is a familiar face during bowl season. Over the past five years, the Tigers have a mark of just 1-4 in bowl games. The team has lost their last two. Last year, it was a 34-27 defeat to UCF in the Peach Bowl, while they fell by a score of 35-19 in the prior year’s Sugar Bowl. The team scored a win in the 2015 Birmingham Bowl over Memphis by a margin of 31-10.
The recent history of the Music City Bowl skews towards favorites, who have a mark of 4-1 straight up over the last five editions. The last upset was back in 2015 when Louisville took down Texas A&M by a score of 27-21. Last year’s meeting was a close one, as Northwestern outlasted Kentucky by a final score of 24-23.
This year’s tight spread of 3.5 points suggests we could be in for another close one.
This is an intriguing matchup of two squads which had relatively disappointing regular seasons. They’re both victims of tough conference schedules, as four of Purdue’s six losses came in Big 10 play, while all five of Auburn’s defeats came at the hands of SEC foes.
The intrigue is ratcheted up even further by the respective strengths of the two programs. Purdue has itself a productive offense, while Auburn can get the job done on defense. In the end, this game comes down to which of those two units finds more success.
We think the oddsmakers are right on the money, as this shapes up to be a close and entertaining game. In the end, Purdue’s offense should be able to do enough to keep it close and cover, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Boilermakers pull out the win outright.
We’ll take Purdue plus the points.