The 2018 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl features No. 7 Auburn, which handed College Football Playoff title contender Alabama its only loss during the regular season, trying to prevent No. 12 UCF from completing an undefeated campaign.
Although the Tigers were likely one win away from a CFP berth of their own before a blowout defeat against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, they still have an opportunity to end the season on a high note by winning a New Year's Six bowl game.
Meanwhile, the Knights prepared for the clash while getting ready for a coaching change. Scott Frost accepted the Nebraska job after UCF's victory over Memphis in the AAC title game, but he'll still lead the team in its bowl game. New coach Josh Heupel will take over on-field duties afterward.
Let's check out all of the important details for the Peach Bowl followed by a preview and prediction for the New Year's Day contest.
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
When: Monday, Jan. 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: Auburn -10 (via OddsShark)
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The New Year's Six game between a high-profile team from a power conference and a Group of 5 automatic entrant is always one of the most intriguing bowls on the schedule. That's especially true when the "outsider" squad is unbeaten like UCF is this season.
Although the Knights were never viewed as a significant threat to secure a CFP spot due to their middling schedule, the Peach Bowl is their chance to prove the doubters wrong.
The task became tougher after Frost made the decision to accept an offer to become the Cornhuskers' head coach after playing college football at the program in the 1990s. It forced him to juggle two jobs over the past month.
UCF offensive coordinator Troy Walters, who will join Frost with the Huskers, said the players "love" their coach and won't let the staff decisions impact their performance against Auburn.
"We've got a great group of players, resilient. They're not going to let anything get in the way of them going out and winning this game and ending 13-0," he told reporters last month. "They're focused—they've been focused all year. They've been able to put distractions out of the way and been able to focus on the opponent at hand, and I don't see it being any different."
The Knights are led by the offensive triumvirate of quarterback McKenzie Milton (3,795 passing yards, 35 passing touchdowns and seven rushing scores), running back Adrian Killins Jr. (928 yards from scrimmage and 11 total TDs) and wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (1,082 receiving yards and 13 TDs).
Their defense is a concern, though. They allowed a combined 97 points in shootout victories over South Florida and Memphis in their last two outings.
Meanwhile, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn made it clear his team wasn't going to overlook UCF despite its lack of pedigree compared to most of the team's SEC counterparts.
"I promise you we'll take them seriously," he said. "They're the No. 12 team in the entire country. They're the only undefeated team. They're the No. 1 scoring offense in the country. And they've earned everybody's respect. Not just ours, but everybody around the country. Our guys, they'll need to be ready, and I expect us to be ready."
While the Tigers' offense will be bolstered by the presence of starting running back Kerryon Johnson, whose status was uncertain leading up to the game due to shoulder and rib ailments, the onus will be on the defense.
Auburn ranks sixth in defensive efficiency (via ESPN.com), and the unit will need to step up against the fast-paced Knights' attack, particularly in the second half.
The group should be battle-tested given the team's tough schedule late in the campaign, as spotlighted by John Zenor of the Associated Press:
Ultimately, it's difficult to know exactly what to expect Monday since UCF hasn't played an opponent close to Auburn's caliber all season long. That doesn't mean the Knights can't pull off the upset, but slowing the Tigers down enough to do so will be an uphill battle.
Prediction: 38-31 Auburn