TransPerfect Music City Bowl: Auburn vs Maryland

By Simon Carroll

Welcome to Bowl Season! 84 teams, 42 matchups, 35 different cities; if you thought the College Football postseason was restricted to the four teams in the playoffs, think again. In this game preview we turn our attention to the TransPerfect Music City Bowl, between the Auburn Tigers and Maryland Terrapins:

Where and When

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Location: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN

Date: 30th December 2023

Time: 2:00pm (ET)

The Story So Far...

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A staple of the Bowl Season calendar for the past 25 years, the Music City Bowl has been held at the home of the Tennessee Titans almost every season. Whilst previously dabbling with teams from the ACC on occasion, this bowl game has predominantly matched an SEC program with a Big Ten opponent, and has done so exclusively since 2020.

This year, the SEC sends a team that is riding high on the crest of a recruiting wave, if not one based on this season’s form. Hugh Freeze’s first year at Auburn has been rocky, with the Tigers struggling for consistency. Three wins to start the season was followed by losses in their first four conference games. They bounced back nicely with three straight victories, before closing out the year with an embarrassing loss on The Plains to New Mexico State and a gut-wrenching defeat to rivals Alabama on an improbable 4th & a mile walk-off touchdown from Jalen Milroe.

Despite the 6-6 record, optimism is high that Auburn is in a much better place under Freeze than it was his predecessor Bryan Harsin. Pulling in a top-8 recruiting class has doubled down on the belief that the good times are coming back to Jordan Hare.

They face a tricky customer on Saturday. Similar to Auburn, Maryland started the season strong before a midseason slump saw their hopes of a ranked finish dashed – with defeats to Illinois and Nothwestern particularly galling. In his 5th year back in the DMV, Mike Locksley recorded a 7-5 record, ensuring a third-straight winning season as head coach. Locksley has been credited with getting the Terps more competitive – a football program with money but little in the way of success to lean on. With the Big Ten erasing divisions Mayland stand to benefit from not having to face Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State each year – and Locksley will be hoping for better Bowl Games than this one in future seasons.

The Quarterbacks

After four years at Maryland, and racking up 11,500 yards and 49 touchdowns, Taulia Tagovailoa has almost certainly opted out of the Music City Bowl. One of the biggest sparks in Maryland’s rise under Mike Locksley, the younger brother of Tua followed his head coach from Alabama to Maryland and has never looked back. It looks like his intention is to seek another year of eligibility and transfer elsewhere – something that both Maryland and ‘Bama would have to agree to before the NCAA can run the rule over the request. The Big Ten’s all-time leading passer walks away with a legacy not many envisaged when he arrived at College Park.

That leaves Billy Edwards as the next man up. After beginning life at Wake Forest, Edwards has been with the Terps for two seasons and acted as backup to Tagovailoa. Whilst far from green, Edwards has completed just 32 passes in his collegiate career – but does offer more on the ground than his former teammate. Don’t be surprised to see the creative Locksley draw up some designed runs for his new QB.

Auburn had seven players hit the transfer portal, all role players this season under Freeze – so they arrive in Nashville looking pretty healthy. Whilst they’ve had dubious production under center in 2023, Payton Thorne has made the job his own and finally started to have some consistency – the game against Alabama being one of his best in the blue and orange. The former Mississippi State Spartan seems to have seen off Robby Ashford, who has been exploring options elsewhere. Thorne won’t fill defenses with dread, but having an experienced QB in a bowl game isn’t always a given these days.

Prospects To Watch

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Auburn have a trio of NFL talent opting out of this one, with corners DJ James and Nehemiah Pritchett joined by DT Marcus Harris in declaring for the draft. Despite the losses in the Tigers’ secondary, it is worth keeping an eye back there, as free safety Jaylin Simpson is also a player destined to play on Sundays. A versatile piece in the back end, Simpson has moved from outside corner to nickel to safety with ease – and has developed his ball skills along the way. 7 interceptions the last three seasons shows how dangerous this intelligent DB is – and at 6’1″ and 175lbs looks ideally suited for the next level.

Maryland have a couple of draft-worthy prospects of their own – and unlike Auburn, they’re not opting out of the Music City Bowl. Sticking with the safety theme, Beau Brade is garnering day-two noise as a physical run stuffer who likes to loiter around the box. In today’s fluid world, Brade can play that ‘Star’ linebacker-safety hybrid role that is so in vogue in the NFL right now. But his 11 pass breakups and 3 interceptions in the last two years tells you he’s far from a one-trick pony.

Right tackle Gottlieb Ayedze is also worth monitoring – a hulking 6’5″ and 320lbs, humans that size shouldn’t be able to move like this offensive lineman can. A hometown native, Ayedze spent most of his career with Division II Frostburg State, before seamlessly making the jump to the Terps in 2023.


This is an intriguing one. On one side, you’ve got an Auburn team with an established veteran under center, but a defense stripped of NFL-caliber talent. On the other, a feisty Maryland program that has buy-in from the departing stars but a relative rookie at quarterback.

Both these coaches are offensive-minded and have shown they can dive into their bag of tricks when needed. Give me Locksley in a close game that you’ll definitely want to tune in for – but watch out for Auburn in 2024; the Tigers are comin’.

Auburn 34-37 Maryland

Mock Draft