No. 12 UCF Knights (12-0 SU, 7-4-1 ATS) vs. No. 7 Auburn Tigers (10-3 SU, 6-6-1 ATS)
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Monday January 1st, 2018. 12:30PM (EST)
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium Atlanta, G.A.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UCF +9.5/AUB -9.5
Over/Under Total: 67
The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl presents an exciting and intriguing pairing this year when the no. 12 UCF Knights meet the no. 7 Auburn Tigers inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Knights are the only team in the FBS that is still undefeated with a perfect 12-0 record thanks to a crazy double overtime win over no. 20 Memphis in the season finale. The win secured the AAC title and sustained the Knights 2017 Cinderella Story surrounding a perfect season. Now the Knights have one final opportunity to prove their season is not a fluke and that opportunity is a showdown with one of the premier programs from the SEC by way of the 7th ranked Auburn Tigers.
I know by the team this game rolls around on New Years many will have forgotten that despite 3 losses Auburn was just one win away from a College Football Playoff appearance. However, their letdown performance to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game derailed those possibilities. While a playoff appearance would have been ideal, Auburn still has a lot of superlatives from the 2017 season highlighted by two wins over #1 ranked teams in Georgia and Alabama. After a few mediocre seasons in the last few years, Head Coach Gus Malzahn instilled reassurance back into the Tigers program by proving Auburn could compete at an elite level again.
For this Peach Bowl matchup, it appears that this game has the makings of a potential shootout. High scoring games have been pretty common for the Knights this season. In their last two games of the season, the Knights totals have reached the 90 point mark and their offense has not scored less than 45 points in the last 4 games. The entire coaching staff for UCF has done a great job under Head Coach Scott Frost who just accepted the Head Coaching position at Nebraska. Frost will reportedly take all of his assistants with him to Nebraska. The only good news for UFC fans is that the coaching staff will coach the team in the Peach Bowl before departing.
Therefore we should not expect any major changes from the UCF offense or play calling perspective. Quarterback McKenzie Milton will still be given the opportunity to shine as the focal point of the offense which is a role the sophomore has relished this year. Milton has thrown for 3,795 yards with 35 touchdowns and 9 interceptions and has also run for another 497 yards with 7 touchdowns. Obviously Milton is the center piece to this Knights offense but this team houses plenty of talent for a non-power 5 school. WR TreQuan Smith has been outstanding with 1,082 reception yards and 13 touchdowns and running back Adrian Killins Jr has averaged over 6 yards per touch this season. Therefore, UCF has plenty of weapons to share the wealth on the offensive side of the football.
Perhaps the biggest question for the Knights is can their defense stand up to the challenge of slowing down this Auburn offense? The Tigers were held to just 7 points in the SEC Championship loss to Georgia but they among the hottest offenses in the country in the weeks leading up to that game. More importantly, UCF has struggled significantly on defense this year especially against the run yielding 166 yards (65th in FBS) per game on the ground. As we know, Auburns offense is designed to run the football behind running back Kerryon Johnson who has racked up 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns on the season. Johnson was banged up in the SEC Championship Game and that played a big impact on the offenses struggles. With a fully healthy Johnson expected to suit up against UCF, we should expect the full threatening nature of the Tigers rushing attack which will create further opportunities for quarterback Jarrett Stidham who has proven the ability to make plays down the field.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This may be the easy bet but I believe it is the sure bet. Take the over 67! - Move the line on this game up to 20 points by inserting it into a 20 point football teaser at the web’s best sportsbook: 5dimes!