MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Football fans are having fun down in Florida this New Year’s Eve, ahead of the Gophers’ appearance in the Outback Bowl.

Now comes the time for the team to focus on why they are there, meaning final preparations are underway to try and win the game on Wednesday.

WCCO’s Mike Max reports it’s a very important game in the sense that a win would validate the merits of their 10-win season against a team that feels it was not far from playing in the college football Final Four playoffs. Auburn came quite close.

Auburn looked very good offensively at the end of the season, and that’s not lost on Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck.

“When you’re playing one of the most historical football programs in the country, and one of the best-coached teams in the country, it’s a tremendous challenge,” Fleck said. “And it’s challenge that I think both teams accept, in terms of looking forward to it and high, high competition. That’s why you come to the Outback Bowl, that’s why you have a season like we did.”

On Monday, fans, players and the marching band took over part of Clearwater Beach for a bash.

Kickoff for the Outback Bowl is noon Wednesday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Mike Max