The Tigers will be ringing in the new year out west in the desert.
LSU is headed to the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl and will take on undefeated UCF at 12 p.m. CT on New Year’s Day, the College Football Playoff Committee announced Sunday. It’ll be the first ever trip to Glendale, Ariz. for the Tigers, who become the first SEC school to play in the Fiesta Bowl since Tennessee in 2000.
“What an honor for our football team,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said on a Fiesta Bowl teleconference. “Our team deserved the very best reward at the end of the season that was possible, and we’re thrilled that we got that in the Fiesta Bowl. What a prestigious bowl. What a prestigious match-up on New Year’s Day.
“It’s a reward for our young men that have worked very hard. We’ve had a good season. These guys started off relatively unknown before the season. We’ve had some very big wins throughout the season. This is a great reward for our football team.”
The College Football Playoff committee dropped LSU to No. 11 in the final rankings. UCF landed at No. 8. LSU hasn’t made a bowl of this magnitude since losing to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game.
UCF clinched its second consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearance by finishing as the highest-ranked Group of Five conference champion. The Knights shook off losing star quarterback McKenzie Milton to a devastating knee injury and beat Memphis 56-41 on Saturday in the AAC championship game.
UCF defeated Auburn in the Peach Bowl to close out last season, and part of the prevailing narrative became that Auburn wasn’t focused on the game. When asked about motivation, Orgeron said it wouldn’t be a problem for his team.
“We’re highly motivated,” Orgeron said. “This is where our team wanted to go. When possibilities of certain bowls came up, our team wanted to go to the Fiesta Bowl. We have complete respect for UCF. We’re going to be highly motivated. We’re not happy with the way our season ended the last game. Our guys are going to be ready to play.”
This will be the first-ever meeting between the programs and there’s plenty on the line. LSU is going for its first 10-win season since 2013 while UCF is looking to add another Southeastern Conference pelt to its mantle and extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 26 games.
Earlier Sunday morning, the four-team College Football Playoff was announced. No. 1 Alabama will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl while No. 2 Clemson will play Notre Dame No. 3 in the Cotton Bowl.
Georgia came in at No. 5 in the CFP rankings, which automatically earned them a bid in the Sugar Bowl as the highest-ranked SEC team that didn’t make the playoffs. That left the Fiesta and Peach bowls as possible destinations for LSU and the other non-champions that finished in the top 12.