This is a first.
For this year’s Outback Bowl, Auburn is playing a team it has never played before. Not in its previous 1,136 games.
Then again, it may not be. They’ve played other teams in the Big Ten (plus One), but not as many as I would have expected after 100+ years. After Northwestern, there will still be four teams in the Big ten that Auburn has yet to play. Historical records against current Big Ten teams are below.
1) Illinois 0-0
2) Indiana 1-0 (1990 Peach Bowl)
3) Iowa 0-0
4) Michigan 1-1
5) Michigan State 1-0 (1937 Orange Bowl)
6) Minnesota 0-0
7) Ohio State 1-0-1
8) Penn State 1-1
9) Purdue 0-0
10) Wisconsin 1-1-1
This gives Auburn a 6-3-2 record against the Big Ten, with all but two of these games being bowl games. (The two ties were regular season contests.) Like any list, I need to admit a few things about mine (especially for any Big Ten purist who might be reading this). The list above is the complete record against all current Big Ten teams. What does that mean?
=> It counts games regardless of when they were played. The SEC was founded in 1932. The Big Ten in 1896. The list above counts Auburn games against Big Ten teams prior to the SEC’s formation. (None were played prior to the Big Ten’s formation.)
=> The list above also counts games against teams who weren’t in the Big Ten at the time of the contest. It means the 1937 contest vs. Michigan State was technically not an SEC Big Ten match-up as Michigan State joined in 1950.
=> It ignores teams no longer in the Big Ten. (Granted, this doesn’t change anything as Auburn never played Chicago.)
And while this game may be first opponent to both teams, it will add to the growing animosity that is the SEC vs. the Big Ten. Granted, that animosity has been there almost since the SEC’s inception. Scholarships, as we know them today, weren’t always the case. It used to be that schools recruited athletes by offering them jobs. The jobs in turn paid for the schooling. However, during the Depression, when jobs were particularly scarce in the South, the SEC began offering tuition as an inducement. The Big Ten filed a complaint immediately, stating that offering tuition was a violation of the rules. The SEC countered that this put them at a competitive disadvantage, as the Midwestern states had jobs to offer while the South did not. The NCAA (or its forerunner at the time) found in favor of the SEC. The modern scholarship was born. The Big Ten has been ticked at the SEC ever since.
So what is the record between the two conferences?
If you speak only of actual conference matchups, the record favors the SEC by a total of 66-47-2. To do this would count such schools as Chicago, Sewanee, Tulane, and Georgia Tech while they were members, and would not count Arkansas and Penn State during the times they were not. And, though Auburn has two ties against Big Ten schools, these two ties are not the same ties as mentioned in the conference head-to-head. (Auburn hosted Ohio State in 1917. Final score was 0-0. Auburn traveled to Wisconsin in 1931 and left with a 7-7 tie. Both games occurred prior to formation of the SEC.)
Yeah, a Big Ten fan might say, but this doesn’t mean that the SEC schools weren’t part of a major conference, and this is true. Prior to forming the SEC, most of the schools were part of the Southern Conference. While the Southern Conference is now an FCS conference that features such schools as Appalachian State, Elon, and Davidson, it once was composed of many members of the current SEC and ACC conferences. This leads us back to the SEC vs. Big Ten head-to-head when schools are members of the conferences.
Big Ten fans would also like to argue that you should include all current Big Ten schools vs. all current SEC schools. I saw one state where the Big Ten leads that discussion 95-88-7.
But it’s all a lot of argument.
Games aren’t won on debate. They’re won on the field.
And on New Year’s Day in Tampa, that’s where this game will be decided.
Until the next game anyway,