In a tweet earlier this week I said that I thought Auburn would be a tougher opponent for UCF than Baylor was in the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor came in that year with a better record and a more gaudy offense, but the 2017 Auburn team is battle-tested in a way that Baylor never was.
Auburn plays in the SEC West, which many college football fans say is the most competitive conference in the entire FBS. The division contains not only Auburn but also Alabama and LSU, all three of which have won multiple national championships. Including division opponents, Auburn has played 6 games against teams that finished the season in the Top 25. Early in the season, they lost a single-possession game against defending national champion Clemson. Then in November, they completed a feat few (if any) college football teams have ever equaled. In the space of 3 games, between November 11 and November 25, Auburn played and defeated two number one teams: Georgia (40 - 17) and Alabama (26 - 14).
Besides the loss to the defending champions, Auburn's only other two losses came to ranked teams. They lost by 4 points to LSU (23 - 27), and they were beaten in a revenge game by Georgia in the SEC Championship (7 - 28). That last loss looks worse than it was. For one thing, Auburn's star running back, Kerryon Johnson, had a bad shoulder in that game and was limited in action. For another thing, Georgia is also a top-ranked one-loss team that wanted to avenge the loss a few weeks earlier.
UCF fans know all too well what playing in a revenge rematch feels like. Early in the season, UCF cruised to an easy win over Memphis (40 - 13). Then Memphis went on to win the AAC West Division and came back to Spectrum Stadium, where UCF essentially had to survive the game by finding ways to outscore Memphis (62 - 55).
Auburn Offensive Leaders
Auburn has an offense that managed to put up an average of 454 yards and 34.4 points per game in 2017. Auburn's offense scored a total of 52 TDs, 21 Field goals, and was a perfect 54/54 in PAT attempts. Leading those stats were several standout players.
- Passing Leader: Jarrett Stidham - 218/327, 2827 yds, 17 TDs, 4 INTs; 178 yds Rushing, 4 rushing TDs (21 total TDs)
- Rushing Leader: Kerryon Johnson - 263/1320 yds, 17 TDs
- Receiving Leader: Ryan Davis - 76/768 yds, 5 TDs
- Kicking Leader: Daniel Carlson - 54/54 PATs, 21/28 FGs, Long 54 yds
In total, four players threw TD passes for Auburn (Stidham, Johnson, Davis, and Malik Willis), seven different players scored rushing TDs, and seven different receivers caught TD passes.
UCF Offensive Leaders
UCF has an offense that led the nation in scoring. The Knights put up an average of 542.7 yards and 49.4 points per game in 2017. UCF's offense scored a total of 74 TDs, 11 Field goals, and 76/77 PAT attempts. Leading those stats were several standout players.
- Passing Leader: McKenzie Milton - 249/360, 3795 yds, 35 TDs, 9 INTs; 497 yds Rushing, 7 rushing TDs (42 total TDs)
- Rushing Leader: Adrian Killins, Jr. - 112/762 yds, 10 TDs
- Receiving Leader: Tre'Quan Smith - 54/1082 yds, 13 TDs
- Kicking Leader: Matthew Wright - 76/77 PATs, 11/14 FGs, Long 47 yds
In total, two quarterbacks threw TDs for UCF (Milton and Noah Vedral), 10 different players scored rushing TDs, and 10 different receivers caught TD passes.
Tomorrow: Defensive Comparison...