New Year’s Day. A euphoric day that is often saturated with a plethora of new ambitions (some of which are unrealistic) and a multitude of hungover adults that are looking to persevere through a painful start to the New Year. However, beyond the typical moments of glory and pain, there are actually several intriguing sports contest to view, not the least of which is an impressive slate of College Football contests. The first major contest of the day will see the most efficient offensive team in UCF attempt to dismantle the unforgiving defense of Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Despite playing in the less reputable American Athletic Conference, the Knights were able to dispatch every single opponent they faced en route to an undefeated season after finishing winless just two years ago. Although the ruthless Tigers have to feel somewhat disappointed after losing to Georiga in the SEC Championship game, they at least have a chance to redeem themselves in a nationally televised New Years Six Bowl against a worthy opponent.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
UCF Knights (12) vs. Auburn Tigers (7)
Time: Monday, 12:30 PM E.T.
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
TV Channel: ESPN
Despite finishing the season undefeated, the well-coached and highly-talented Knights are still a program that has yet to receive the respect that they have rightfully deserved. With that said, this lack of acknowledgment has yet to affect the playmaking abilities of quarterback McKenzie Milton. Throwing 35 touchdown passes to just nine interceptions this year, Milton has epitomized the poise and efficiency of an elite quarterback, an honor that very few pundits have vocally bestowed on the underrated signal caller. Along with the physical attributes and leadership intangibles of Milton, the Knights were also fortunate to have a bevy of talented receivers, the most notable of which is Tre-Quan Smith (14 total touchdowns, 20 yards per receptions). After not having a competent passer for years, the well-rounded Tigers finally found their man in quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Efficient (66.7 CMP%) and reliable (threw just four interceptions this year), Stidham has been a godsend for a Tigers program that has for far too long been reliant on a physical rushing game and a stingy defense to win competitive contests. However, the Tigers can hardly complain that they also have one of the most dynamic running backs in the country in Kerryon Johnson. When healthy, Johnson is a dangerously physical rusher that also has the impressive athleticism to be a reliable receiver in the short passing game (19 total touchdowns this season). While the high-scoring offense of the Knights will undoubtedly frustrate Auburn’s defense in certain moments, the Tigers are much more physical on both sides of the ball. With running back Kerryon Johnson being the obvious X-factor for the fearless Tigers, it’s had to imagine the Knights being able to do enough on defense to stifle Auburn’s efficient passing attack and potent rushing game.
Final Score: Knights 24 Tigers 30 Spread: Auburn -9.5