It wasn’t official until Sunday, but in reality, the Gophers had zero chance of earning a bid to the Rose Bowl after losing to Wisconsin in the regular-season finale to tumble to No. 18 in the rankings.

The consolation prize after that disappointment should be appealing to the Gophers and their fans: A spot on the Outback Bowl against Auburn.

There are many positives in this reward for a 10-2 season. It’s a New Year’s Day game in Tampa, Florida, against a quality SEC opponent with national recognition.

This serves as another measuring stick opportunity for P.J. Fleck’s program.

This felt like the obvious destination for the Gophers. Ohio State was assured a spot in the College Football Playoff after going undefeated, regardless of the outcome in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Wisconsin felt like a lock for the Rose Bowl after putting up a fight against the Buckeyes on Saturday, at least for a half.

The fact that Utah got routed in the Pac-12 title game opened the door for Penn State to earn a bid to the Cotton Bowl.

The Citrus Bowl took a Michigan-Alabama matchup, sending the Gophers to the Outback Bowl for the first time.

Auburn went 9-3 with wins over Oregon in the opener and Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Their losses came at Florida, at LSU and home against Georgia by a total of 21 points.

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