TAMPA — Auburn QB Chris Todd, somewhat maligned last year during a 5-7 season, has closed his career in style.
When Todd, a senior from Elizabethtown, Ky., threw two touchdowns in a 26-21 loss to Alabama in the regular-season finale, he set Auburn's season mark for touchdown passes with 21. And he has 2,377 passing yards and a passer rating (146.5) that ranks as the third best in the SEC and 20th overall in college football.
That's not too bad for a guy who battled shoulder problems as a junior while finishing with 903 passing yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions.
Making his 2009 success more impressive is the fact Todd had offseason surgery, missed spring practice and didn't begin working with first-year offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn until the start of fall workouts.
"I'm really proud of him," coach Gene Chizik said. "He's overcome a lot of adversity. He's a leader. He's got everybody's respect in the locker room."
Sunshine presence: Three Floridians are on the Northwestern roster — DB Hunter Bates (Ponte Vedra Beach Nease), DT Marshall Thomas (Miami Belen Jesuit) and TE John Plasencia of Jesuit.
Bates, a redshirt freshman who has played plenty on special teams, has two interesting ties.
The first: His father, Bill, spent 15 seasons as a safety with the Dallas Cowboys. Before that, he was a star at Tennessee.
The second: Bates played two years (2004-05) at Nease with QB Tim Tebow, who would later win the Heisman Trophy at Florida.
"My father is excited (about attending the Outback Bowl)," Bates said Monday.
Bates expects to have 15 to 20 family/friends at the game.
A lengthy drought: Landing in the Outback Bowl was a big deal for Northwestern, but just getting to the game probably isn't enough.
The Wildcats are only 1-6 in bowls.
Their last win?
That came at the 1949 Rose Bowl, when Northwestern defeated Cal 20-14. Last season, Missouri beat the Wildcats 30-23 in overtime in the Alamo Bowl.
Of the six bowl losses, all of which have come since the 1996 Rose Bowl, Northwestern led in five of them.
NU's special fan: Tammy Walker, widow of former Wildcats coach Randy Walker, will attend the game, which isn't a surprise. She's at most Northwestern games.
Walker's husband died in 2006 of an apparent heart attack at age 52, leaving behind Tammy and two grown children.
Walker is heavily involved in Northwestern athletics; she works in the athletic department as a development associate.
Odds and ends: Northwestern is stout on the field and solid in the classroom. The team had an overall GPA above 3.0 in the 2009 spring quarter for the first time. … Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is expected at the game. He attended law school at Northwestern.