The first of four clashes between Big Ten and SEC teams takes place at the Music City Bowl 2018.
The Purdue Boilermakers captured our attention by blowing out Ohio State and subsequently knocking the Buckeyes out of the College Football Playoff, but they needed a win over Indiana in the final week of the regular season to become bowl eligible.
Auburn experienced an up-and-down season in the SEC, as its longest winning streak was two games. Gus Malzahn’s team enters Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, off a blowout loss to Alabama.
The first of three bowl games Friday should be an even affair, with dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball, including a quarterback with plenty to prove as he eyes the NFL and a freshman who took the college football world by storm.
Music City Bowl 2018 Auburn vs Purdue
Date: Friday, December 28
Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN or ESPN app
Odds (via OddsShark): Auburn -3; Over/Under: 55
The most important piece of news that appeared during the buildup to the Music City Bowl was Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham declaring for the NFL draft.
Unlike other top players, Stidham decided to play one final collegiate game, as he claims he has unfinished business, per Tom Green of AL.com.
“It’s like unfinished business,” Stidham said. “I just felt like, for me personally, I wanted to finish this season with the guys and try and finish this thing off the right way.”
“I’m a proud alumnus of Auburn University now, and so I wanted to leave Auburn in a good place, so to speak, especially for next year, and like I said, those guys that are coming back next year, give them a little bit more momentum for next year,” Stidham said.
The Music City Bowl also presents Stidham with an opportunity to impress scouts following a disappointing statistical year.
Stidham only threw for 2,421 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he failed to hit the 200-yard mark in each of his last three games.
However, Stidham appears to be in a decent situation entering the draft, as the quarterback class isn’t as deep as a year ago and Oregon’s Justin Herbert, who was seen as the top prospect at the position, is returning to school for another season.
If he puts together one of his best performances of the season, Stidham could become the second Auburn quarterback to win the Music City Bowl Most Valuable Player after Jason Campbell won it in 2003 in a win over Wisconsin.
While Stidham deserves the headlines, the Tigers need a successful balanced attack on offense to dispense of the Boilermakers.
Running backs Kam Martin and JaTarvious Whitlow will try to take advantage of a Purdue rushing defense that ranks 64th in the FBS and concedes 164.6 rushing yards per game.
Although Auburn boasts a strong collection of playmakers, Purdue possesses the most dynamic player on the field in freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore.
Moore racked up 1,154 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns while putting together seven 100-yard performances.
The young wideout and quarterback David Blough should find some success through the air against an Auburn passing defense that sits 55th in the FBS.
In their November defeats to Alabama and Georgia, the Tigers gave up over 500 total yards to each team and they were torched by the Crimson Tide for 377 yards through the air.
Purdue isn’t close to comparing to two of the top teams in the nation, but it could achieve similar success as the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs through the air with Moore carving through the Auburn secondary.
In the event that Purdue’s passing offense can’t get into a rhythm, senior running back D.J. Knox will challenge Auburn’s 37th-best rushing defense.
Knox didn’t blow anyone away with his stats in November, but if he’s able to get positive yardage on most of his runs, he’ll make third-down conversions much easier for Blough.
Music City Bowl 2018 Prediction
Purdue 37, Auburn 34
The Music City Bowl will be closer than some think because both defenses are susceptible to conceding points.
Stidham does his best to leave the Auburn program with a win, but Purdue will have something to say about that.
Moore turns in one of his best performances of the season, and as he sets the tone for his sophomore season, he leads the Boilermakers to their second consecutive bowl win under head coach Jeff Brohm.