The Auburn Tigers had their sights set on making the College Football Playoff earlier this month, but a loss in the SEC Championship Game to Georgia ended their hopes of making the final four.

However, the Tigers are still in a marquee bowl game, as they’ll take on the UCF Knights at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on New Year’s Day.

During his Monday morning appearance on “The Opening Drive” on WJOX, ESPN host Paul Finebaum said the Peach Bowl may not have been what the Tigers wanted, but added that it is critical that they come out strong and pick up a victory.

“I think it’s critical for Auburn to win this game, and I say that because there are so many factors connected to this,” he said. “A loss would mean two losses to end the season. It would mean four losses — which quite frankly is not what many people consider to be a great season in spite of everything else. I think on top of Malzahn’s contract extension, it would be a bitter pill to swallow going into the offseason.

“I’m not suggesting that people would start bellyaching to the extent that we heard after the loss to LSU, but it would just feel badly, especially with Georgia and Alabama already in really good position. I also think this is a pretty good opponent. You can look at it any way you want try to compare other teams which have lost coaches, but UCF is very beatable in spite of the record. I just don’t think they’re in the same league as Auburn, and I think Auburn ought to go over there and dust them. I really do.”

It won’t be easy to slow down UCF’s high-scoring offense, but Auburn’s elite defense has what it takes to get the job done and pick up the Tigers’ 10th win of the season.

The Peach Bowl kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time on New Year’s Day and can be seen on ESPN.