The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication
A bit of an added bonus to this bowl preview, along with the other five members of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. In addition to the usual spread and total paragraphs we have in these previews, we’ll have a quote from one of the guys over at Sportsline, giving you some things they’re thinking about heading into these games. You’ll see it at the bottom of the post here and you can see more from the guys over at the site.
Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl
#12 UCF (12-0) vs. #7 Auburn (10-3)
Spread: Auburn -9.5
Spread: Scott Frost has taken the Nebraska job, but has also taken the unusual step of deciding to coach his old team in their bowl game as he will lead the Knights in this one. The Knights are “on a mission” to finish their season undefeated after rolling through the American Conference to earn their bid to this game. The Knights were the highest scoring team in the country at just a shade under 50 points (49.4) and over 540 yards per game. The offense is a balanced one, with 32 pass attempts to 38 rushing attempts on average per outing. It’s led by QB McKenzie Milton who showed off his dual-threat capabilities this season with over 3,700 yards through the air and just under 500 (497) on the ground and 42 combined touchdowns. RB Adrian Killins was the leading rusher with over 700 yards and 10 touchdowns, but it was a varied rushing attack with five guys (including Milton and Killins) carrying the ball 45 or more times. Milton’s top receiving target was the speedy Tre’Quan Smith who eclipsed 1,000 yards with 13 touchdowns averaging 20 yards per catch.
The offense was good, but the defense was just average this year, allowing 25 points and over 400 yards to opponents this season. They were vulnerable against the run (165 YPG 4.4 YPC) which could be a problem against a dangerous Tigers rushing attack. But, they have one of the best stories in the sport in LB Shaquem Griffin who is one of the best linebackers in the country despite having only one hand. He recorded 62 tackles, 10 for loss, 5.5 sacks and an interception this year.
The Tigers offense can attack that UCF defense on the ground with RB Kerryon Johnson, who is listed as probable despite a shoulder injury. Johnson carried 263(!) times for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns this season. He’ll see plenty of work here, but you can’t forget about QB Jarrett Stidham who threw for over 2,800 yards and 17 touchdowns while completing 66 percent of his passes this season. Darrius Slayton, Will Hastings, and Nate Craig-Myers all provided big plays this season with all three averaging 17+ yards per catch.
As good as the offense was, the defense was arguably better, allowing opponents just 17 points and 317 yards per game this season. They pose a tall order for Frost and UCF as they held opponents to just 3.6 yards per carry and under 200 yards per game through the air.
Auburn was .500 ATS this year at 6-6-1, and they weren’t any better as the favorite, going 4-4-1. UCF was a bit better at 7-4-1 and 1-0 as an underdog. Group of 5 teams are actually 2-1 in these match-ups since we started the playoff system in 2014. I’m not sure UCF wins, but the Knights could score enough to keep it close. UCF +9.5
Total: Both teams were above .500 against the number this year as Auburn was 7-6 and UCF was 8-4. However, the Tigers defense is good enough to slow this game just enough to keep it under the high total here. Under 67
Sportsline Expert: “UCF has a heaping helping of motivation with coach Scott Frost and staff staying to finish off a possible unbeaten season before bolting to Nebraska. Auburn must dust itself off after an exhausting four-week closing stretch that included three games against playoff teams (Georgia twice, Alabama once), but RB Kerryon Johnson, who was ailing in the SEC Championship, should be healed.”- Mike “Top Dog” Tierney