What you need to know about the Peach Bowl
Knights face Auburn Monday in Atlanta
The UCF Knights face the Auburn Tigers on New Year's Day in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Kickoff is at 12:30 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game airs on ESPN.
Here's everything you need to know about the teams and the annual bowl game:
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
Central Florida is playing for the respect of the America Athletic Conference and to show it deserved a higher ranking, if not a spot in the College Football Playoff, as the nation's top-scoring and only undefeated team. Auburn is looking to make up for a poor showing in its 28-7 loss to No. 3 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where it will play in the Peach Bowl. The loss to Georgia cost the Tigers a spot in the playoff after it beat two No. 1 teams in the playoff ranking - Alabama and the Bulldogs.
Auburn's defensive front against Central Florida's offensive line. The Tigers rank 10th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 17.3 points per game, while the Knights lead the nation with their average of 49.4 points. Led by quarterback McKenzie Milton, who finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting, Central Florida has scored at least 30 points in every game this season. The Knights will be without injured starting left tackle Aaron Evans and are expected to move Jake Brown from left guard and start freshman Samuel Jackson there. Auburn's defensive front was led by outside linebacker Jeff Holland's nine sacks.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Central Florida: Adrian Killins led the Knights with 762 yards rushing and 11 total touchdowns but may be better known for suggesting Auburn hasn't faced a team with as much speed as Central Florida. Killins told the Orlando Sentinel: "SEC football, they don't have a lot of speed, honestly." Killins averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had 24 receptions.
Auburn: Junior running back Kerryon Johnson, selected by The Associated Press as the SEC's offensive player of the year and second-team All-America, says he is close to 100 percent after he hurt his ribs and right shoulder against Alabama to close the regular season. Johnson had a season-low 13 carries for only 44 yards in the SEC championship game loss to Georgia. He will have to show he can withstand hits after being protected from contact in practice.
FACTS & FIGURES
This will be the final game for Central Florida coach Scott Frost, who has accepted the job at Nebraska, his alma mater. Former Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is Central Florida's new coach and will watch the game from a private box. ... The Knights beat Baylor in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl and finished the year ranked No. 10, but Frost took over a program that finished 0-12 in 2015. ... Auburn took home wins over UCF in 1997, 1998 and 1999. ... QB Jarrett Stidham ranks eighth nationally and first in the SEC by completing 67 percent of his passes.
"It will be bittersweet tomorrow," Frost, the AP coach of the year, 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."
CARRY ON AT RB: Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson said Saturday he feels close to fully recovered from injuries to his right shoulder and ribs. Johnson led the SEC in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards per game and was the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year and second-team All-American.
ILLNESS: Auburn cornerback Carlton Davis, one of the team's defensive leaders, has an illness and won't play in the game, Malzahn said Sunday.
RESPECT FOR GRIFFIN: Auburn players 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."
PEACH BOWL VETERAN: Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele coached in the Peach Bowl in 1982 when the game was played in the first of its three Atlanta homes. Steele was Tennessee's linebacker coach and the Vols lost to Iowa at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The game moved to the Georgia Dome in 1993.
This is the 50th anniversary of the Peach Bowl and its first game in new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which also will be home to next week's national championship game.
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