Big Ten likely to face Auburn in Outback

The Outback Bowl isn't afraid to be unconventional with its team selections, and the Tampa-based game reportedly pulled off another surprise.

Rather than selecting Tennessee, the team widely projected to end up in Tampa, the Outback Bowl is expected to pick Auburn as its SEC representative. If the SEC selections went in traditional order, Tennessee would get the nod over Auburn because of its second-place finish in the SEC East.

This is hardly unusual for the Outback, which picked Iowa over Northwestern last year even though the Wildcats had a better overall record (9-3 vs. 8-4) and owned a head-to-head victory against the Hawkeyes.

With the Big Ten likely sending two teams to BCS bowls, Wisconsin and Northwestern would be the top two contenders for the Outback Bowl. Northwestern owns the head-to-head victory Nov. 21, but Wisconsin can finish with a better overall record if it beats Hawaii on Saturday (ESPN2, 11:30 p.m. ET). Wisconsin went to the Outback Bowl two years ago, but the Outback twice has passed over Northwestern since 2000.

Wisconsin has faced Auburn three times, most recently in the 2006 Capital One Bowl, which the Badgers won, 24-10. Auburn beat Wisconsin in the 2003 Music City Bowl, and the teams tied back in 1931.

Northwestern and Auburn never have played.