Motivated UCF to Cover Against Heavily Favored Auburn In Peach Bowl

peach bowl

Rainman M.

Thursday, December 21, 2017 3:18 PM UTC

Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017 3:18 PM UTC

No. 12 UCF (12-0) plays No. 7 Auburn (10-3) on Monday, January 1, at 12:30 p.m. ET in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Auburn opened as an 8-point favorite, but is now favored by as many as 10.

Peach Bowl: Central Florida vs. Auburn

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Free NCAAF Pick: UCF +10
Best Line Offered: Bovada


Psychology is a crucial betting angle in bowl games. This was evident in the Oregon-Boise State Las Vegas Bowl where the previously high-flying Ducks produced only two offensive touchdowns and were never in the game -- despite being favored by 8 points -- because they were emotionally reconciling themselves with the departure of coach Willie Taggart.

Auburn is dealing with disappointment while preparing to play Central Florida in the Peach Bowl on January 1 in Atlanta. They had been in the playoff discussions but were left out of the playoffs in favor of a team they had beaten soundly. The Tigers don’t have anything to gain by beating UCF, but UCF has everything to gain by beating Auburn. The Knights were never in the playoff discussion because the committee refused to respect a mid-major school, so they have no reason to be disappointed but every reason to be pumped by the prospect of completing an undefeated season and achieving a tremendous upset against a major SEC program.

In order to score enough points for a cover, Auburn will have to rely on its quarterback play to stretch out UCF’s defense and otherwise make its offense more prolific. Auburn is 0-3 ATS when throwing for fewer than 200 yards. In those three non-covers, the opposing quarterback was more efficient and threw for more yards.

UCF’s defense is underrated. They have misrepresented themselves on national television by being involved in high-scoring affairs with a lot of quick scores. Against South Florida, all of UCF’s touchdown drives lasted less than three minutes (UCF also had a kickoff return for a touchdown). In another matchup, Memphis had nearly seven more minutes of time of possession and the game went to overtime. Quick scores tend to lead to quick scores from the
opponent, which gets the benefit of facing a poorly rested defense.

In terms of opposing passer rating, UCF’s pass defense ranks 45th. For instance, they held SMU’s Ben Hicks to a season-low 106 rating; Hicks' rating is 144.7 for the season.

McKenzie Milton will outperform his Auburn counterpart at quarterback. Milton is acclimated to the spotlight, heaving led the Knights past USF on prime-time television. Milton is prolific: 69 percent completion, 3,795 yards passing, 35 touchdowns to nine interceptions, and 497 rushing yards on 5.3 yards per carry. Of course his numbers are inflated by soft competition, but what makes Milton trustworthy is the versatility of his skill-set. He is dangerous throwing and running. But unlike most mobile quarterbacks, he has a high completion percentage because of his accuracy. He is accurate on short throws but also ranks among NCAAF leaders in passer rating on deep passes, deep passing touchdowns and yards on deep passes.

Auburn backers will say UCF hasn’t faced a team of Auburn’s caliber. But it’s also true that Auburn hasn’t faced a quarterback such as Milton, nor has Auburn's physical defense encountered UCF's up-tempo play style that can wear them down.

The Verdict

UCF will cover on our NCAAF picks because Milton is a prolific quarterback who can outperform Auburn’s quarterback. UCF can score enough with its up-tempo offense and secure the cover with its underrated defense. The Knights will be more motivated to prove themselves.

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