by: Tyler Priddy

HOT SPRINGS — Arkansas is headed to the Outback Bowl for the first time in school history.

While the Razorbacks have never played in the game several of the nation’s top powers have. Here’s a look back at the games since 2015.

The 2015 Outback Bowl took place between Auburn and the Wisconsin. One interest in this match was Coach Gus Malzahn was set to face interim head coach for Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez. The last time Auburn and Wisconsin met on the field was in the 2006 Capital One Bowl. Alvarez, in his last game serving as head coach, led Wisconsin to a 24–10 victory over Tommy Tuberville-led Auburn. Alvarez was originally athletic director at Wisconsin before taking the coaching position. He came to coach after the departure of Bret Bielema and Gary Anderson for the past Rose Bowl before retiring. As they were originally ranked No. 2 at the start of the season, they slowly dropped to No. 19. Auburn didn’t have its usual high-winning record, entering from the SEC with a record of 8-4, while the Badgers entered from the Big Ten with a record of 10-3. The MVP of the game was named Wisconsin’s RB Melvin Godin. Gordon made an Outback record, by running 251 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Wisconsin won the bowl 34-31, and went into overtime winning with a field goal completed by Wisconsin kicker Rafael Gaglionne. 

In 2016, the Tennessee Volunteers took home a landslide victory from the Raymond James Stadium. The Outback Bowl invites introduced the Vols and Northwestern Wildcats to hit the field on New Year’s Day. Tennessee and Northwestern had only played one bowl game against each other, and that was the 1997 Citrus Bowl, which was also played in Florida that ended with a Vols victory of 48-28. Tennessee led the game by four turnovers, 24 first downs, and 420 total yards. This was also known to be one of their best seasons and games in 8 years, ending with a final score of 45-6. Joshua Dobbs threw for 166 yards and ran two touchdowns. MVP for the game was named Volunteer’s running back Jalen Hurd. 

While the Outback Bowl is generally played on New Year’s Day, on January 2, 2017, it was played between the SEC’s Florida Gators and the Iowa Hawkeyes of the Big Ten. This was almost becoming a regular meeting, seeing how this was the fourth overall meeting between the teams, and was the third time the Gators and Hawkeyes played each other in the Outback Bowl. Both teams had won back and forth, and it was starting to become a regular rivalry championship. Both teams came in with the same season record of 8-4. Florida quarterback Austin Appleby threw for 222 that game, with two touchdowns. Florida was also known for its intense defense during the game, though both teams held position for a near equal amount of time. The highlight of the game was a Florida 85-yard pass and touchdown by Mick Thompson. Florida safety, Chauncey Johnson, was named the MVP of the game. The final score was a Florida victory 30-3.

The South Carolina Gamecocks and Michigan Wolverines played in the New Year’s Day 2018 Outback Bowl, both entering with a record of 8-4. This would be Michigan’s sixth appearance at the Outback Bowl, the most times any team has been. Since the name change in 1995. This was also their 46th bowl game in general. Michigan was favored by nine. South Carolina was selected for the Outback bowl for their fifth time, and for their 22nd Bowl appearance. In 2013, Michigan and South Carolina played in the Outback Bowl that ended with a Gamecock victory of 33-28. The 2018 Outback Bowl was a good game with both teams having a close total in yard gaining with South Carolina at 300, Michigan 277 and a nine-minute possession time difference. The final score was another Gamecock victory of 26-19. 

On January 1, 2019, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Iowa Hawkeyes played in the Outback Bowl. Both teams entered the Bowl this year once again with a record of 8-4. This would be Mississippi States first time playing in the Outback Bowl, while it would be Iowa’s sixth.  The most recognized play of the game was a 75-yard reception by Iowa’s Nick Easley that led to a touchdown during the second quarter. The MVP of the game was named Iowa receiver, Nick Easley. Though Mississippi State was favored, Iowa won 27-22. Even though the Iowa Gamecocks won the game, the statistics were dominated by the Bulldogs.

The 2020 Outback Bowl matched the Big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Auburn Tigers. The New Year’s game would be the first meeting between the two programs. Both the Gophers and the Tigers entered the game with great records. P.J Fleck’s Golden Gophers at 10-2, while Malzahn’s Auburn came to Tampa with 9-3. This had been the Tigers fifth Outback Bowl, and they’re Tampa record was 2-2. The longest touchdown of the game was a 96-yard kickoff return by Auburn’s Noah IgbnogheneI. During the fourth quarter Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson made the second run of the gain with a reception for a 73-yard run. It was a very intense game, and touchdowns nearly went back and fourth until the fourth quarter when Minnesota finally took the lead after Tyler Johnsons reception from Tanner Morgan. MVP of the game was named Minnesota wide receiver Johnson. The final score of the 2020 Outback Bowl was Minnesota 31-24.