Game time: 12:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. CT
How to watch online: www.espn.com/watch
Odds: Auburn (-10.5), 67 (O/U)
Let’s keep this short and sweet. UCF (12-0) just finished the season of a lifetime. They didn’t lose a game and won their conference championship. Head coach Scott Frost earned himself a promotion and will return to his alma mater, Nebraska, at the end of this game.
Auburn (10-3) beat two of the four College Football Playoff participants in the regular season, but lost their conference championship and find themselves on a New Year’s Six bowl game. Head coach Gus Malzahn earned himself an eye-popping $49ish million contract to remain at Auburn for the foreseeable future.
UCF averaged 49.4 points per game this season, which ranks first in the nation. Much of that offensive firepower comes in the form of quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton threw for 3,975 passing yards this season and ran for 497. In the process he accounted for 42 total touchdowns. Kevin Steele’s posse will have their hands full in slowing down Milton, and they’ll have to do it without All-American cornerback Carlton Davis.
Auburn’s offense got progressively better as the season unfolded. Kerryon Johnson was unstoppable literally until his arm fell off in the SEC Championship Game. Jarrett Stidham grew up before our very eyes, picking apart one of Nick Saban’s elite defenses in the last game of the regular season. The offensive line was one of the best in the country. All the pieces are there to take care of business against UCF.
We could look at dozens of stats from both teams and make a very educated guess at who will win the game, but I don’t know that that’s necessary. At the risk of sounding hokey, I think this one will come down to which team wants it more.
Would it not be a perfect ending to a magical season for UCF to send Scott Frost home to Nebraska with a win over an SEC team? Will they not have a chip on their shoulder? Could Auburn be underwhelmed in facing a Group of Five opponent? Wouldn’t it be easy to feel flat, knowing that you beat two of the four best teams in the regular season, and still missed the playoff?
The team who wants it more will win this one. On paper and in the minds of everyone who is not a Knight, that should be Auburn. I think it will be.
Auburn 55, UCF 35