By Raymond Rolak | CNBNews Exclusive
TAMPA-- The University of Minnesota football team accepted an invitation to compete in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020. The Gophers, who went 10-2 in the regular and a 7-2 in Big Ten play, will face Auburn (9-3) from the SEC. It will also be the second straight bowl game for the Gophers under head coach P. J. Fleck, as Minnesota played in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit last season and beat Georgia Tech 34-10.
This season, Minnesota was ranked No. 18 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, while Auburn was No. 11. It will be the first meeting ever between the Gophers and Tigers. Minnesota will be making their first-ever appearance in the prestigious bowl game.
The Outback Bowl will be the 21st bowl game all-time for Minnesota, but it will mark the first time that the Gophers have played in the Florida-based Bowl. The game will take place at the Raymond James Stadium with kickoff slated for 1:00 P.M. The Gophers won 10 games in the regular season for the first time since 1905. Minnesota also won seven Big Ten games for the first time in school history. “We are extremely honored to be selected to play in the prestigious Outback Bowl against a tremendous opponent in Auburn,” said head coach Fleck. He added, “This has been a historic and elite season at Minnesota, and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate it in beautiful Tampa, Fla., with a New Year's Day bowl game. I know our players, staff and fans are excited for this opportunity and to get to Florida.”
The Outback Bowl has the longest-running title sponsor in current-day bowl history. Outback Steakhouse, headquartered in Tampa, has just agreed to extend its current contract as title sponsor for the next six years, through January 2026. They have been the main sponsor since 1995. Both teams arrive in Tampa for the start of the festivities December 26. One of the main community events is the New Year's Eve Parade, a celebration featuring floats, marching bands, and a battle of the bands pep rally.
Minnesota is 8-8-1 all-time against teams from the SEC and most recently played Missouri in the 2015 Citrus Bowl. Prior to that, Minnesota's last game against an SEC opponent was a 20-16 win against Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl.
In Gus Malzahn’s seventh year at the helm, Auburn started the season 5-0 before losing three of their next five games. The Tigers saved their best for last, upsetting in-state rival and then No. 5-ranked Alabama at home in a 48-45 shocker. That effectively knocked the Crimson Tide out of playoff contention. “We are excited about returning to the Outback Bowl for the first time in five years to face a very good Minnesota team out of the Big Ten Conference,” said coach Malzahn.
Coach Fleck has also been named as one of six finalists for the 2019 George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award by the Maxwell Football Club. Fleck, who was voted the Big Ten's Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year already, is joined as a finalist by Ryan Day (Ohio State), Ed Orgeron (LSU), Matt Rhule (Baylor), Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).