Allstate Sugar Bowl Looks at Big 12-SEC 2015The Allstate Sugar Bowl secured its future through January 2026 with the announcement that it would host the champions of the Southeastern and Big 12 Conferences in eight of the 12 years between 2014 and 2025. If the champion of either or both leagues is selected for the College Football Playoff, a replacement team from that conference will play in the Sugar Bowl. In the four seasons that the Sugar Bowl is not hosting the Big 12 and the SEC (2014, 2017, 2020, 2023), it will serve as a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
After last year’s Playoff Semifinal game, this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl will be the first as the official destination for the top available teams from the Big 12 and the SEC. To lead into the season, the Bowl is providing brief previews of each team in the leagues.
Auburn2014 Record: 8-5 (4-4, tied for fourth in SEC West)
Athlon: Cotton Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. Ohio State
Sporting News: Cotton Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. TCU
Phil Steele: Citrus Bowl vs. Nebraska
ESPN (Schlabach): Orange Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. Ohio State
ESPN (McMurphy): Orange Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. Ohio State
AP: Cotton Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. Notre Dame
CBS: Cotton Bowl Playoff Semifinal vs. TCU
Jeremy Johnson (Jr., QB): Has thrown nine touchdowns through first two collegiate seasons
D’haquille Williams (Sr., WR): Led team with 45 catches for 730 yards and 5 TDs
Avery Young (Jr., OL): Started all 13 games on the O-line
Johnathan Ford (Jr., DB): Team-best 93 tackles, 3 INTs, 1.5 TFLs
Cassanova McKinzy (Sr., LB): 91 tackles in 2014; 189 career tackles
Kris Frost (Sr., LB): 87 tackles, 59 solo; 10.0 TFLs
The hiring of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp should be a boost for a defense that allowed 398.8 yards per game (ninth in the SEC) and 26.7 points per game (10th in the SEC) while producing just 10 sacks in 2014. The top three tacklers from 2014, safety Johnathan Ford, linebacker Cassanova McKinzy and linebacker Kris Frost, are all back, along with cornerback Jonathan Jones, who picked off six passes and earned second-team All-SEC honors. Auburn lost four seniors on the line, but redshirt freshman Dontavius Russell and five-star defensive end Byron Cowart are ready to step up. Tray Matthews, a former Georgia safety, is expected to add physicality to the Tigers defensive backfield.
Key Early Games
Saturday, Sept. 5 vs. Louisville (2:30 p.m. CT, CBS): With many picking tabbing Auburn as a national championship contender, the Tigers get their season kick started with a challenging game against the Cardinals in Atlanta as highly-touted quarterback Jeremy Johnson makes his debut as the Auburn starter. Louisville is coming off a nine-win season in coach Bobby Petrino’s first year back at the helm and will be looking to climb into the national picture with an upset win.
Saturday, Sept. 19 at LSU (2:30 p.m. CT, CBS): A Tiger face off in Death Valley should prove to be a very exciting matchup as the Tigers of LSU are looking to rebound from a sub-par season in 2014 and the Tigers of Auburn are looking for their first win in Death Valley since 1999.
Cassanova McKinzy (@McKinzy30) finished second on the team in 2014 with 91 tackles and racked up 11 tackles for loss, the most for any Tigers linebacker since Karlos Dansby in 2003. The Birmingham, Ala., native saw action in all 13 games with 12 starts and recorded the team best tackle mark five times with 10 vs. San Jose State, nine vs. Louisiana Tech, six at LSU, 12 vs. Texas A&M and nine at Georgia. McKinzy flirted with the idea of foregoing his senior season for the NFL, but opted to come back tweeting, “The Auburn family means too much to me to not take advantage of the time I have here. I’m looking forward to helping us build the best defense in college football. Can’t forget my brothers and that grind we embrace. I love you all. Couldn’t ask for a better back bone.”
Five of the six major national outlets listed above have selected Auburn as their favorite to win the SEC and advance to the College Football Playoff. The preseason media poll released at SEC Media Days also tabbed Auburn to win the league. Hopes are sky-high for Auburn and its fans, but will this be “their time”? Check the video to see if you believe.
Auburn is 2-2-1 all-time in the Sugar Bowl Classic. The 1988 matchup between Syracuse and Auburn ended in a 16-16 deadlock becoming just the seventh tie in major bowl history and the first since 1959. Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson was furious that Auburn went for a field goal to tie it up rather than attempting the touchdown, but Auburn head coach Pat Dye made no apologies for his decision. Dye said his Tigers – two and a half point favorites – simply played with “too much character and class” to risk going for a 13-yard touchdown in the fading seconds against the fourth-ranked Orangemen. “You win some, lose some and some end in ties,” Dye said. “I made up my mind early on (in Auburn’s last drive) what I was going to do. I wasn’t going to let my team get beat. If they (Syracuse) wanted to win, they should have blocked the field goal.”
Look Back at the 1988 Sugar Bowl