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Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is a Big Ten guy, through and through

TAMPA — No 2009 victory meant more to Northwestern than its 33-31 win over Wisconsin in the regular-season finale, which helped the Wildcats earn an Outback Bowl berth. But on Tuesday, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald was cheering for the Badgers, who beat Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl.

You see, he's a Big Ten guy through and through.

And like most affiliated with the league, Fitzgerald is tired of hearing about its lackluster bowl record in recent years.

"I couldn't be happier for (Wisconsin)," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said that although the Big Ten has some awfully fierce rivalries, most of the coaches get along just fine. After the Badgers' win, he sent Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema a congratulatory text message.

"We've got the utmost respect for each other," Fitzgerald said.

HIGH-POWERED O: In its first season under offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, Auburn has had one of the most prolific units in school history. The Tigers need 282 yards against Northwestern to break the program's single-season mark.

Although Auburn has gotten excellent production from QB Chris Todd and the passing attack, coach Gene Chizik said the offense revolves around the run, which is sparked by RB Ben Tate (1,254 yards).

"We start everything from trying to run the football," Chizik said. "When I've been on really good football teams that's what we've been able to do."

TIGERS PROUD OF PLANT ALUM: In high school, Derek Winter was a key contributor for a Plant team that won a state title. At Auburn, Winter, a sophomore WR with one catch for 16 yards, has been a role player, one the Tigers are happy to have.

"Derek's a great young man," Chizik said. "He's the epitome of hard work. When you look at the Auburn creed, in there it talks about work — hard work. He is what the creed says and he is what Auburn believes in. He comes to work every day and he does everything we ask him to do. Right now his role is mainly (as) a special teams contributor and he does a great job of that."

Winter is expected to graduate next year.

SUPER SPEAKER: Former Bucs coach Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as coach of the Indianapolis Colts, was the guest speaker at Wednesday's Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast, which players attended. Hie focused on faith, family making the most of life. "It was a great opportunity to have Coach Dungy share his wisdom," Fitzgerald said. "His message was right on."

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is a Big Ten guy, through and through 12/30/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 8:45pm]

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