#7 Auburn Tigers (10-3, 7-2) vs. #12 Central Florida Golden Knights (12-0, 9-0)
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta)
Time: Monday, Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Line: Auburn -8 O/U 67
History: Auburn leads series 3-0 (28-10 Auburn ’99)
This is it.
The culmination of UCF’s historic undefeated season. The big chicken sandwich (and peach shake) in A-town. The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. The G5’s only chair at the big boy’s table. This is Central Florida’s final chance to make the “we got shafted” argument in front of the entire country when they take on the #7 Auburn Tigers. Auburn was a win away from the playoffs, UCF believes it should be in the playoffs after going undefeated.
You could make an argument that this is the best matchup among the New Year’s Six. UCF ranked 12 by the playoff committee is patently absurd according to anyone who has seen them play this season. Lord knows UCF alum and Comedy Central Icon Daniel Tosh has been making that case on Twitter.
UCF won the state of Florida this year. As a native son of the Sunshine State, I know that college football matters down there above all else there. Central Florida is the best team in the state this year, with Miami and USF coming in 2nd and 3rd. They are top dogs in office trash talk from Pensacola to Key West until next September.
Sophomore QB Mackenzie Milton and the Golden Knight offense led the country in scoring at 49 ppg. Auburn boasts the #10 defense in the country and will, no doubt, be Milton’s toughest foe to date. UCF is balanced on offense, 7th in passing and 34th in rushing. Milton has accounted for 4,300 yards of offense this year thanks to a plethora of weapons like WR Tre’Quan Smith and RB Adrian Killins.
This is Scott Frost’s last game as UCF Head Coach before leaving for his alma mater Nebraska, expect emotions to run high. Josh Heupel will take over in Orlando as Head Coach, Randy Shannon has already been announced as defensive coordinator. Former Missouri OC Heupel looks to build upon Frost’s success with Milton returning for his junior year.
Auburn is the best three loss team I have ever seen. The War Eagle/Tigers have been dealing with the Kamryn Petteway drama all week. But, Petteway hasn’t really been a major factor down the stretch for Auburn, so I doubt it will be much of distraction. They still have Jarrett Stidham and Kerryon Johnson.
They still have that defensive line. They are favored by more than a touchdown everywhere I looked. -8 on OddsShark was the best I could find.
Kerryon Johnson ran for 1,320 yards for Auburn this season. Jarrett Stidham didn’t put up gaudy numbers, but he was efficient and stabilized that position for the first time since Nick Marshall left. They are a run-heavy team that also has guys like Eli Stove and Kam Martin to spell Johnson from time to time. Ryan Davis is Stidham’s favorite target.
Auburn’s defensive line is the most impressive part of their team. They are 21st in the nation in sacks, Jeff Holland, Deshaun Davis, and Derrick Brown combined for 27.5 TFL this season. Up front is where the game will be decided. If UCF can’t block these dudes, it will be an Auburn romp.
UCF’s defense is not good enough (ranked 53rd in ppg allowed) to slow down Stidham and Johnson for long stretches. Auburn is battle-tested after their late-season stretch that included two games vs. Georgia and one vs. Alabama. Perhaps playing in the Peach Bowl against UCF is a bit of a disappointment for Auburn. Think back to when Houston beat Florida State in 2015. I expect UCF to be more hyped for this game.
Sometimes the team that wants to be there more ends up winning. UCF still has a statement to make. They probably want to “win one for the Gipper” as Scott Frost departs. Not sure how motivated Auburn is going to be. Here is a perfect opportunity for UCF to complete their untouchable season.
UCF needs to catch the Tiger War Eagles napping. Hit them with the up tempo, score in bunches. Use screens to neutralize the Auburn pass rush.
I’m going on the limb predicting the upset.
Central Florida – 38
Auburn – 31