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Snap Judgments - Auburn vs UCF

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Our long national nightmare has just begun.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - Auburn v Central Florida
Us too, Jarrett.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Turning the page from 2017 to 2018 turned out decidedly poor for Auburn fans, what with the Tigers’ 34-27 loss to UCF in the Peach Bowl (and the following two results in the College Football Playoff Semifinals). What did our contributors think about the loss?

DR. Z

Knee Jerk Reaction: Auburn wasn’t ready to play today, and it showed. They got flat out whipped in the trenches all day.

The defense could contain Jalen Hurts and Clemson’s QB, but not this guy?

Play calling was predictable and lame. Post patterns were open over the middle all afternoon. Deep throws were generally go routes down the boundary, and low percentage.

Stidham was fabulous unless he was turning the ball over. That pick 6 was Jeremy Johnson-esque.

We should’ve seen this coming. A team that has the playoffs in their grasp only to see it slip away was bound to have issues playing in this game. On the flip side it was UCF’s SuperBowl. They outnumbered us in a stadium an hour and a half from campus. Their fans were loud and motivated. Our fans felt like our players: unhappy about a consultation game.

I don’t know how to gauge 2018, I think we need to wait and see who jumps to the league.

Here’s to 9 months of worry.

TUCO

2017 was fun. The team seemed to enjoy each other and it was fun watching them dance like madmen while destroying two number 1 ranked teams. We’ve been in two straight New Years’ Six Bowls. We weren’t great, but we were very, very good.

Today wasn’t fun. UCF wanted it more and Auburn didn’t adjust offensively until it was too late. Our receivers couldn’t get open and our line had trouble keeping Stidham vertical. Overall, it was another disappointing bowl performance for Auburn.

So, we’ve tied ourselves to Gus for better or worse. My biggest concern on 2018 is rebuilding the offensive line. Our O-Line was a strength this year but we’re losing a lot. If they gel (and assuming another random running back turns from someone we can’t trust with a single carry to someone we have to give 40 carries a game to), we should have another solid year.

WILL MCLAUGHLIN

I love this Auburn football team. They beat Georgia and Alabama this season, handily, and nobody can take that and the memories away from me. After driving back from Baton Rouge in October, I never dreamed Auburn would have a chance to win the West and be on the doorstep of making the College Football Playoff. But they did, and it was quite a fun ride.

Having said that, I honestly wanted no part of UCF. Why? Because I didn’t think Auburn could gain anything from beating a non Power 5 team in a bowl game, even if UCF was 12-0. I also wondered after the letdown from the SEC Championship, where would the motivation be for this game? UCF had something to prove. What did Auburn? Then UCF ran their mouths about speed and I figured that would get Auburn’s attention as much as it got the fanbases. On top of that, Auburn faced a team whose coaching staff was in the process of balancing coaching at 2 schools. And yet despite all of this, Auburn got outplayed and out-coached on Monday. The offensive line was a disaster and I can’t explain it after they had played so well at the end of the year. I felt like I was back in the upper deck at Clemson watching Stidham go down time after time due to poor o-line play and his inability to get rid of the ball.

It was disappointing and somewhat maddening to think how this season ended but I’m thankful for all the memories this team gave me and I can’t wait to be in Atlanta on September 1st. I expect there will be pretty high expectations for next year’s team. Hey, 3rd times gotta be the charm at Mercedes-Benz Stadium amirite? War Eagle!

JACK CONDON

I woke up to 2018 after a fantastic New Year’s Eve dinner at Gunshow in Atlanta (check it out for a special occasion), and my first meal of the New Year was at Waffle House nearly in the shadow of the stadium. It should’ve been a good omen. It was not.

We were outnumbered by the UCF fans who may have realized that this would be their last chance to see some really good football for a while. They’re losing Scott Frost, and Josh Heupel may or may not be able to continue the success they enjoyed this season. Either way, they were loud and proud and out in force.

It was pretty obvious that they were plenty excited to be there from the time this game was announced, and it was even more evident while standing at Gate 2 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the most thorough security guard in existence making everyone unzip jackets and take off hats and gloves in weather that felt like 8 degrees. The UCF fans were unfazed, starting “Gold! ... Black!...” cheers left and right around us.

Inside, it was more of the same. Across the way, they had what looked like a solid block of black that roared and swayed with every moment. My section, 220, was a third-full of Auburn fans at best.

On the field, we just weren’t ready. We have more talent and skill on both sides of the ball, but their defense pushed us around all game long. There was zero push for the running game, and the return of Kerryon Johnson was essentially negated. For the six sacks that UCF got on Stidham, half were because Stidham slipped in the backfield on his own, but he was still running for his life all game long. We didn’t try the intermediate passing game until it became the Will Hastings show, and by then it was too late. And don’t get me started on watching McKenzie Milton scramble for 15-20 yards every time he stepped up out of the pocket.

UCF just made plays. Once we stopped the QB runs, those receivers made several great catches in double coverage, and Milton moved in the pocket enough to throw his guys open. He doesn’t have the strongest arm, but he was throwing to a hole in our defense every time, and it worked.

Despite us screwing around for much of the game, save that stretch in the third quarter, we were driving to tie in the final minute. I have to imagine the presence of Carlton Davis on the field gives us a win in some form or fashion.

Yeah, if Georgia and Alabama had lost yesterday, we wouldn’t feel as bad, but that’s not what happened. Our two biggest rivals, who we dominated, are going to play for the national championship. Georgia rightly earned their spot, and Bama took advantage of the gift they were given. It’s really, really, really, really going to suck watching that game next Monday. I’ll be pulling for the Dawgs if we’re not fortunate enough to get the meteor, space alien attack, nuclear bomb, nanorobot infection, etc.

Good year, everyone. It didn’t end the way we wanted, but that’s the case for all but a few teams every single season.