MINNEAPOLIS -- The 18th-ranked Gophers will bask in the Florida sunshine after accepting an invitation to play No. 12 Auburn in the Outback Bowl in Tampa at noon Jan. 1.

Minnesota will be making its second New Year’s Day bowl game appearance since the 1960s; the U lost to Missouri 33-17 in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando after the 2014 season.

As prognosticators zeroed in on bowl picks this week, Minnesota had been paired with Alabama and legendary coach Nick Saban in majority of educated guesses, but the Crimson Tide are instead going to play Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Minnesota (10-2) will have its hands full with Auburn, which went 9-3 playing in the tough Southeastern Conference West division this season. The U has never played Auburn.

The Tigers’ biggest win this season came against No. 13 Alabama, a game they won 48-45 in the intra-state Iron Bowl last weekend. They also beat No. 6 Oregon, the Pac-12 champions, 27-21 in the season opener on Aug. 31.

Auburn’s three losses all came against teams ranked in the College Football Playoffs’ top 10 — 24-13 to No. 9 Florida, 23-20 to No. 1 Louisiana State and 21-14 to No. 5 Georgia.