We’re T-minus three days from the Peach Bowl. Atlanta. New Year’s Day. 11:30 am Central Standard Time.
Auburn vs UCF. Tigers vs Knights.
For all the doom and gloom that we’ve had coming out from the program over the past couple of years at certain times, this is Auburn’s second straight New Year’s Six bowl game and the third such bowl game in five seasons under Gus Malzahn.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun game against UCF in Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Monday, especially with some developments that have happened on the front lines fro the Knights.
As we look at the lines on both sides of the ball, Auburn has an immediate advantage when you read the link above. UCF’s starting left tackle Aaron Evans will be out of the game with an undisclosed injury, which likely means they’ll slide the left guard Jake Brown out to the tackle spot, which at the very least causes a shuffle in two spots on the offensive line. And on the left side of the line, it’s going to be of utmost importance that they’re able to protect quarterback McKenzie Milton against Jeff Holland and company.
During the regular season, UCF was very good at protecting Milton. Over the course of twelve games, the Knights allowed just twelve sacks.
That’s it. Just twelve sacks. They’re the sixth-best in the country in sacks allowed. I mean, we allowed eleven to Clemson in one game alone.
Now, with the shuffle on the all-important left side, that pretty spotless record could be jeopardy.
On the other side of the line, UCF has plenty of experience on the defensive front. Ends Tony Guerad (6’4, 310), Jamiyus Pittman (6’1, 319), and nose guard Trysten Hill (6’2, 330) provide a ton of beef in the Knights 3-4 scheme. Guerad and Pittman are seniors with 89 combined tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and 4.5 sacks, while Hill’s plugged the middle 19 tackles, 3.5 TFLS, and a sack of his own. They’ll be protecting that smallish linebacking corps behind them.
However, as good at protecting the quarterback as the offensive line is for UCF, the defense is equally bad at getting to the opposition’s quarterback. The Knight defense has earned just 21 sacks over the course of the season, ranking 93rd in the country in that category. If they can’t find ways to manufacture pressure on Jarrett Stidham, then the Tigers may have a field day having time for deep routes to emerge and for Stidham to survey the entire field.