Citrus Bowl scores, takeaways: Northwestern defense, Peyton Ramsey humble struggling Auburn

Auburn Tigers, Northwestern Wildcats. (Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)
Auburn Tigers, Northwestern Wildcats. (Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Northwestern Wildcats had no problem putting away the Auburn Tigers in the Citrus Bowl.

As Pat Fitzgerald‘s Northwestern football team celebrates a VRBO Citrus Bowl victory, Auburn football fans are left wondering what all went wrong this season.

No. 14 Northwestern handled unranked Auburn 35-19 down in Orlando on New Year’s Day. While the Wildcats improved to an impressive 7-2 on the season, Auburn stumbled to a mediocre 6-5 on the season. With former Boise State Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin making his way to The Plains in 2020, Auburn finds itself in the middle of nowhere of the SEC’s middle pack.

Run defense and third-down conversions were Auburn’s undoing

Though Northwestern was the better team throughout the season, many thought this mid-tier bowl game between the Tigers and the Wildcats would be closer than this. The biggest differences in this one were Auburn’s inability to slow down the Northwestern rushing attack, as well as doing next to anything offensively on third down. This tipped the scales forever in Northwestern’s favor.

Northwestern outgained Auburn 166 yards to 61 on the ground. Cam Porter and Peyton Ramsey each went for over 50 yards leading the Wildcats rushing attack. While this was a major advantage for Northwestern, the biggest issues happened on third down. Though Northwestern was not great at 7-for-17 on third down, Auburn was utterly atrocious at 2-for-13 on third down.

Yes, Auburn is in flux with a new coaching staff coming to town, but the Tigers have considerably more talent than the midwestern academic power Northwestern. Once again, this game was proof that coaching matters. While Harsin should help get Auburn back to good, none of that is going to happen until 2021. As for Fitzgerald in Evanston, he is a Northwestern institution.

Northwestern beating Auburn tells you everything you need to know about the Citrus Bowl.

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