ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 31 -- The annual Big Ten Conference vs. Southeastern Conference New Year's Day matchup in the Citrus Bowl this season features No. 15 Michigan against 20th-ranked Auburn.
This is the ninth straight season that the Citrus Bowl pits what traditionally are two of the nation's top football leagues. The SEC holds a 5-3 edge in those contests, although the Big Ten has won the last two, including Michigan's 45-31 win over Arkansas on New Year's Day 1999.
Auburn prviously missed out on the interconference battles. But the Tigers have appeared in the Citrus Bowl on two prior occasions, posting victories in 1982 (Boston College) and 1987 (Southern California).
Overall, the Tigers have won four of their previous five bowl games, while Michigan is riding a three-game postseason winning streak, including an overtime win over Alabama in last season's Orange Bowl.
That was a major bowl game in which Michigan played an SEC school. The Wolverines also faced Auburn in the 1983 Sugar Bowl, coming out on the short end of a 9-7 score.
When teams from the Big Ten and SEC get together, it us usually a clash of styles -- the rugged midwest league against the speed of the south. In this game, however, that might be reversed. Auburn featues the pounding running style of junior Rudi Johnson, who collected 1,567 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The Wolverines also have a load at running back in Anthony Thomas, but they also feature talented quarterback Drew Henson and a pair of receivers, David Terrell and Marquise Walker, as good as any in the nation.
Auburn, which ranks 14th in the land against the rush, can be beaten in the air, so look for Henson to put the ball up often. The junior has thrown for 1,852 yards and 16 TDs with just four interceptions.
Michigan enters the bowl season tied for 11th in the nation in total offense with over 445 yards per game, but its defense, which has struggled throughout the season, will be shorthanded. Cornerback and captain James Whitley was recently dismissed from the team after being arrested on a concealed weapon charge.
The Wolverines shared the Big Ten title with Rose Bowl-bound Purdue and Northwestern, while the Tigers reached the SEC title game, where they were beaten soundly by Florida. Auburn has not won an SEC crown since the league expanded and introduced its championship game in 1992. A win over Florida would have sent Auburn to the Sugar Bowl.