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UCF Knights charge on, facing Auburn in Peach Bowl

UCF alum host watch parties around the U.S.

Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin, center, and UCF players at practice in Atlanta on Friday ahead of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Knights linebacker Shaquem Griffin, center, and UCF players at practice in Atlanta on Friday ahead of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. (Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl)

ATLANTA, Fla. – The undefeated University of Central Florida Knights will face the seventh-ranked Auburn Tigers Monday in the Peach Bowl.

Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game airs on ESPN.

It’s the first time the Knights will compete in the annual bowl game that has been played in Atlanta since 1968. UCF alum are hosting more than 20 watch parties around the country from Denver to Washington, D.C.

UPDATE: UCF defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl completing a perfect season. Read the full story here.

Swan song for Frost

The bowl game will be a swan song for Knights Head Coach Scott Frost and nine assistant coaches. After the game, Frost departs for Nebraska to begin his new position as head coach.

Frost was hired by Nebraska , his alma mater, on Dec. 2, about two hours after the Knights beat Memphis 62-55 in two overtimes in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Frost agreed to a seven-year, $35 million contract, and he's bringing most of his Central Florida staff to Nebraska.

"It will be bittersweet tomorrow," Frost said Sunday. "This certainly isn't an ideal situation for the players or for me or for my staff, but we all care about each other, and I don't know what the alternative would have been."

Former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was announced as the Knights' new coach only three days after Frost was hired by Nebraska. Heupel will watch his new team from a private box seat at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but has not been involved in preparations for the game.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott wished the Knights luck in a tweet ahead of the game.

“Looking forward to watching the undefeated @UCF_Football Knights beat the Auburn Tigers today in the Peach Bowl,” Scott tweeted. “Happy New Year everyone!”

Injured Auburn running back won't play

Injured Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway didn't travel with the team and won't play in the Peach Bowl.

Coach Gus Malzahn said Wednesday that Pettway "stayed back (in Alabama) with his family."

Pettway, who is married and has a daughter, hasn't played in the last five games due to a fractured shoulder blade. The junior has only played in five games this season because of injury or suspension. He has run for 305 yards.

Last season, Pettway led the Southeastern Conference with a 124.8-yard per game rushing average. He was the first Auburn runner to gain 150-plus yards in four consecutive games since Bo Jackson in 1985, when Jackson won the Heisman Trophy.

Auburn players have said they have respect for Central Florida senior outside linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who leads the Knights with 5½ sacks and 10 tackles for losses.

"My opinion, (Griffin) is probably the best pass rusher I'll go against all year," Auburn left tackle Austin Golson said. "I think he's a very good player. I have a lot of respect for the style of football that he plays."

Griffin was honored for his achievements as a student-athlete Wednesday when he was selected for the national 2017 Senior CLASS Award.

The Peach Bowl is one of five bowl games on New Year’s Day. Here’s when and where to watch them:

Noon -- ESPN2 Outback Bowl, Michigan vs. South Carolina
12:30 p.m. -- ESPN Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Central Florida vs. Auburn
1 p.m. -- ABC Citrus Bowl, Notre Dame vs. LSU
5 p.m. -- ESPN Rose Bowl, CFB Playoffs, Oklahoma vs. Georgia
8:45 p.m. -- ESPN Sugar Bowl, CFB Playoffs, Clemson vs. Alabama