December 31, 2014

No. 12 Northwestern (10-2) vs. Tennessee (8-4), Noon ET (ESPN2)

Line: Tennessee by 8 1/2.

Series Record: Tennessee leads 1-0

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Both teams ended the season on five-game winning streaks that came on the heels of disappointing losses that ruined any hopes the Wildcats and Volunteers had of winding up playing for conference championships. A victory would give Northwestern 11 wins in a season for the first time in program history. Tennessee beat Iowa in last season's Taxslayer Bowl and is looking for wins in consecutive bowl appearances for the first time since beating Ohio State and Northwestern in the 1996 and 1997 Florida Citrus Bowl games.

KEY MATCHUP

Tennessee dual-threat QB Joshua Dobbs against a tough, physical Northwestern defense that ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency defense and 11th in total defense. Dobbs has thrown for 2,125 yards and 15 touchdowns, while being intercepted just five times in 319 pass attempts. The junior, who's won 13 of his past 18 starts, has rushed for 625 yards and 9 TDs this season.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Northwestern: Sophomore running back Justin Jackson is the fifth player in school history to top 1,000 yards rushing in consecutive seasons, gaining 1,187 a year ago and 1,344 this season. Redshirt freshman QB Clayton Thorson has thrown for 1,465 yards, 7 TDs and 7 interceptions, and SB Dan Vitale is the Wildcats' leading receiver with 33 receptions for 355 yards and 4 TDs. LB Anthony Walker is one of five defensive players named to the All Big-Ten team.

Tennessee: Sophomore TB Jalen Hurd led the Volunteers in rushing with 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns. WRs Von Pearson is the leading receiver with 36 catches for 377 yards and 3 TDs, followed Alvin Kamara with 31 catches for 272 yards and 3 TDs.

FACTS & FIGURES

Tennessee won the only previous meeting between the teams 48-28 in the Florida Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 1996. ... Tennessee is making its 51st bowl appearance, tied for fourth all-time behind Alabama (62), Texas (53) and Nebraska (52). Northwestern is in a bowl for the sixth time under coach Pat Fitzgerald, 12th overall. ... The Volunteers are 2-1 in previous trips to the Outback Bowl. The Wildcats are 0-1. ... Butch Jones has Tennessee in a bowl game for the second straight year, the first time the Vols have done that under the same coach since 2006 and 2007, when Phillip Fulmer was leading the program.

You May Like