As one of the anticipated New Year’s Six bowl games, the 50th Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl will be held in its brand new home, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. The No. 7 ranked Auburn Tigers will go head-to-head against the No. 12 UCF Knights on New Year’s Day. Since the creation of the College Football Playoff, the Group of Five representative is 2-1 in New Year’s Six games against Power Five competition. UCF has never played in the Peach Bowl, while it will be Auburn’s sixth appearance. Here is everything you need to know heading into the new year with the 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl:
2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Preview: Auburn vs. UCF
What: 2018 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
Who: Auburn Tigers vs. UCF Golden Knights
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia (ESPN)
When: Monday, January 1st, 2018 – 12:30EDT
Auburn (10-3) won the SEC West but were eliminated from the College Football Playoff after a 28-7 loss to No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. That loss knocked the Tigers down to a No. 7 ranking.
After rumors of Auburn’s junior running back and the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Year Kerryon Johnson not playing in the Peach Bowl, Tiger fans can celebrate the new year with a simple “of course” he will be playing.
Of course https://t.co/KKV7dhFJr4
— Kerryon Johnson (@AyeyoKEJO) December 16, 2017
Johnson injured his ribs and right shoulder late during Auburn’s Iron Bowl win against Alabama. He was then limited during the SEC Championship Game loss to Georgia earlier. Against the Bulldogs, he was held to a season-low 13 carries and 44 yards. The junior running back racked up 1,320 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing two games early in the season and battling injuries in late-season games.
Johnson said he will also decide his plans for 2018 following the Peach Bowl. “I’m worried about UCF; that’s the honest truth,” said Johnson. “You start thinking about the future and the present sneaks up on you. I’m worried about getting this job done first. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
Undefeated. The Knights, who were winless just a few seasons ago, are college football’s only unbeaten team. Yes, you read that correctly: UFC Knights. Only undefeated team.
The Knights have scored 111 points in their last two games, winning 12 games without a loss just two years after losing 12 games without a win. In an unbelievable 62-55 win against South Florida in double overtime earlier this month, third-year head coach Scott Frost, brought home the American Athletic Conference title.
Although he is coaching the Peach Bowl, Frost will be moving on to Nebraska full-time along with most of his assistants. “Our staff is completely committed and we’re going to do everything we can for this football team,” Frost said. “It’s an honor to be invited to this game. These players have poured their hearts out to accomplish a lot this year.” His replacement, former Missouri assistant Josh Heupel, will be in attendance for the Peach Bowl to observe his future team.
Tigers vs. Knights
UCF will roll into Atlanta not only undefeated but also as the nation’s top scoring team with 49.4 points per game, while Auburn is ranked ninth defensively at 17.3 points. The Tigers haven’t allowed more than 28 points this season, while the Knights never scored fewer than 31. Auburn certainly has stayed relevant this season with a win against Georgia (before losing the rematch, of course) and Alabama late in the regular season after an eight-point loss to No.1 Clemson early in the year.
Both teams come to the Peach Bowl with top-notch quarterbacks. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, a transfer from Baylor who ranks second in the nation in career passing efficiency, is second in the SEC in passing yards (2,827) and leads the SEC in completion percentage (66.7).
UCF’s McKenzie Milton ranks No. 5 nationally in passing touchdowns (35), No. 2 in passing efficiency (184.8), No. 2 in completion percentage (69.2), No. 5 in total offense (357.7 yards per game) and No. 6 in passing yards per completion (15.24).
The Peach Bowl will mark the fourth meeting between Auburn and UCF, with the Tigers winning each of the prior three meetings between 1997-1999.
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