Blue skies and temperatures in the 60s await the Outback Bowl kickoff at noon Wednesday, when the No. 18 Gophers take on No. 12 Auburn to end the 2019 season.
The game culminates a week in Tampa, Fla., filled with beach days, theme park outings and warm weather. Gophers fans gathered outside Raymond James Stadium early, taking in the tailgating vibes surrounded by palm trees.
But this last game is still the priority for the Gophers, a chance to take down an SEC power. Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said he watched all of Auburn's game this season in order and saw the team improve from the beginning of the season to the end, including freshman quarterback Bo Nix.
"The amount of improvement he's made from the first week to the last week where he was really a difference maker, I felt like, in the Alabama game," Rossi said. "He's become a better thrower, more confident. He is a good athlete. He can hurt you on his feet. He can scramble. But toward the end of the year, I thought he's really taken another step in terms of, he's a freshman, so that's what you expect. But he can really hurt you in the pass game, too."
I'll update this with any observations from warmups, such as if right tackle Daniel Faalele appears to be returning from injury. UPDATE: Faalele is sitting the game out, wearing a brace on his lower left leg. Here are other guys not dressed:
Running back Cam Wiley, left leg
Running back Shannon Brooks, undisclosed injury
Tight end Jake Paulson, right ankle and left arm
Quarterback Zack Annexstad, right foot
Receiver Nnamdi Adim-Madumere, right lower leg
Running back Jason Williamson, knee
Linebacker Alex Strazzanti
Defensive back Caden Fey
Offensive lineman Kyle Sassack
Defensive lineman D'Vion Harris
Walk-on linebacker Peter Bercich Jr.
Linebacker Kamal Martin, who decided to skip the bowl game with an injury