Peach Bowl preview: Tigers should roll if they care

Welcome to the Peach Bowl portion of the Action Network’s 2017-18 College Football Bowl Preview. Make sure you subscribe to our Degen and Juice podcast for even more in-depth weekly bowl previews.

This preview integrates a combination of point spreads, advanced statistics, motivational angles and coaching changes. You can follow all of my plays for free on the SportsAction App through the [App Store] or [Google Play].

All lines taken from Pinnacle as of Dec. 27th.

All stats updated following the CFB regular season. All advanced stats via Football Outsiders.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

Teams:  Auburn vs. UCF
Location:  Atlanta
Date:  January 1st, 12:30 PM EST

Current CW S&P+ Total
Auburn -9.5 Auburn -7.5 Central Florida -1 67


Notes: Quite the jump for the Central Florida program, which moved from 0-12 two years ago to a New Year’s Six berth against an SEC power. Scott Frost has accepted the job at Nebraska, but he’ll coach this bowl game before Josh Heupel takes the reigns of the Golden Knights. The biggest news may not be the coaching carousel, but the injury to UCF left tackle Aaron Evans. The lineman started all 12 games and anchored an offensive line that ranked in the top 10 nationally in fewest sacks allowed.

It’s safe the say the Knights have not seen a defense of Auburn’s caliber this season. War Eagle ranks 13th in total defense, limiting opponents to 4.55 yards per play (eighth in the nation). The news on the offensive side of the ball is positive, with running back Kerryon Johnson expected to be fully recovered from an injury that limited him during the SEC Championship Game.

There is certainly value in the current 9.5-point spread, as my power ratings make this Auburn -7.5 and S&P+ rates the game Central Florida -1! Motivation is certainly a factor, as Central Florida looks to complete an undefeated season while Auburn did not make the playoff despite beating two teams in it. That said, Auburn’s defense has certainly received some bulletin board material courtesy of UCF.

This cannot be the outcome Auburn wanted after the Tigers faced one of the nation’s most challenging schedules. If the Tigers’ offense is interested at all, they will take advantage of a Central Florida defense that ranked 93rd overall, giving up 428 yards per game. That stat is aided by the Knights’ inability to stop explosive plays; UCF ranks 125th in defending pass explosiveness. Auburn should be able to expose this stat with the nation’s No. 32 ranked pass explosiveness offense.

Auburn’s motivation is key to the cover. If the offense is more along the lines of what we saw against Georgia (the first time around) and not ULM, then Kerryon Johnson will expose a Central Florida defensive line that ranked 110th in havoc rate. I will be playing this game live looking to War Eagle at a better number, but it’s the only side you can take on the heels of a very impressive 2017.

Useless Trends

  • UCF is 2-4-1 ATS in its past seven games
  • Over is 5-0 last 5 for UCF and 7-3 last 10 for Auburn

The Pick: Auburn -9.5

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