LSU vs. UCF: 5 things to know about Tigers’ Fiesta Bowl opponent
LSU will play UCF in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
— PlayStation Fiesta Bowl (@Fiesta_Bowl) December 2, 2018
The Knights have the nation’s longest winning streak at 25 games. They routinely refer to themselves as the 2017 national champions because they were the only undefeated team in the country (13-0) even though they finished sixth.
This year they are one of four undefeated teams entering the postseason, joining three members of the CFP – No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Clemson and No. 3 Notre Dame.
Here are 5 things to know about UCF, which finished No. 8 in the Playoff rankings:
1. How the Knights got here
They had their second consecutive undefeated regular season, winning the American Athletic Conference title for a second consecutive season as well.
They captured the conference championship when they defeated Memphis 56-41 in the American championship game Saturday on their home field in Orlando, Fla.
As the highest-ranked representative of the Group of Five conferences, UCF was guaranteed a spot in a New Year’s 6 bowl.
The Knights’ closest call was a 31-30 victory at Memphis on Oct. 9.
Their best win was the rematch in the championship game because they were playing without starting quarterback McKenzie Milton, who a week earlier suffered a major leg injury that required three surgeries, and overcame a 17-point halftime deficit.
Their best win with a healthy Milton was a 38-13 triumph at home against then-Nov. 19 Cincinnati on Nov. 17.
2. Their best offensive player is RB Greg McCrae
This would have been Milton, a Heisman Trophy candidate, if he were still healthy.
McCrae had one of the most productive rushing games in school history in the title game, finishing with 206 yards, including a 50-yard gain on 4th-and-1, setting up a touchdown that gave UCF the lead for good early in the fourth quarter. He has 1,101 rushing yards and 9 rushing touchdowns.
Redshirt freshman Darriel Mack Jr. has replaced Milton and had a very productive game Saturday. He had a hand in all 5 second-half touchdowns – passing for one and rushing for 4 – as the Knights had a touchdown on each second-half possession except the final one, during which they ran out the clock.
For the game he rushed for 59 yards and completed 19-of-27 passes for 348 yards and 2 touchdowns.
3. Their best defensive player is DB Richie Grant
He can do a little bit of everything, leading with the team with 102 tackles and 6 interceptions. He also has forced three fumbles and recovered one.
4. Their history with the SEC
The Knights, who have never faced LSU, are just 3-17 against SEC teams, but they beat Auburn 34-27 last season in the Peach Bowl.
That victory gave the Knights validation in many circles as they defeated an SEC team in a New Year’s 6 bowl. They have a similar opportunity against LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
5. Worth noting …
Josh Heupel is in his first season as UCF’s head coach, but he is familiar with LSU. He was an assistant coach at Oklahoma, for which he played quarterback (2000-01), in 2003 when the Sooners lost to LSU in the BCS Championship Game in the Sugar Bowl.
Heupel coached in the Fiesta Bowl with Oklahoma after the 2007, 2008 and 2011 seasons.
Before coming to UCF, Heupel spent the previous 2 seasons as Missouri’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. LSU beat Missouri 42-7 in 2016.