The East Carolina Pirates will look to get their 2020 campaign off to a banging start when they host No. 13 UCF Knights. ECU has yet to play this season as their initial first game against Marshall (Sept. 12) was postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. UCF (1-0) moved up one spot in the polls after defeating Georgia Tech on Saturday (49-21) also had their inaugural game postponed this year.
The Knights have won four straight meetings between the programs, which includes taking last year's matchup 41-28, although the Pirates own a 10-8 edge in the series overall. ECU is also 6-4 against UCF in Greenville.
The line has trended upward in this one as UCF has gone from a 24.5-point favorite to a 27-point favorite. 85 percent of the bets are backing UCF and giving the points. UCF is garnering 77 percent of the moneyline bets as well
The over/under has trended upward slightly. After opening at 76 points, the number has bumped up to 77 points for this contest. 67 percent of the wagers on the total have come on the under side of the mark.
Game-time Weather: Temperature at kickoff is expected to be in the high 70s with the real-feel temperature in the mid-80s thanks the humidity. There is a 30 to 40 percent chance of precipitation in the forecast for this contest. Winds are expected to be about five miles an hour from the south with gusts under 10 miles an hour.
UCF Looks To Continue Dominance In AmericanUCF hits the road for a second straight week. UCF looks to begin the season 2-0 for the fourth straight year as well as win their initial American Athletic Conference game for the fifth consecutive season. The Knights are 22-2 against AAC foes over the last three seasons and have won 36 of their last 40 games overall.
UCF is coming off a dominating 49-21 victory at Georgia Tech as quarterback Dillon Gabriel was terrific as he threw for a career-high 417 yards along with four touchdowns. Trailing 7-0 following the Yellow Jackets' first possession, the Knights reeled off 28 straight points and took a 14- point halftime lead. Then after Georgia Tech cut the lead down to seven points early in the fourth, UCF answered right back with running back Otis Anderson capping off a six-play, 75 -yard play with a one-yard plunge to push its advantage to 35-21.
"You saw what happened last week," chided Gabriel. "I guess you can say we're the best team in Florida."
UCF racked up 660 yards of total offense with 243 yards coming on the ground. The Knights also converted an incredible 62.5% (10-16) of their third downs. Defensively, they forced five turnovers (two interceptions) and registered six tackles for losses while surrendering 471 total offensive yards. It wasn't all good news for the Knights as they committed two turnovers and lost running back Greg McCrae (9 carries for 50 yards and one touchdown) and wide receiver Tre Nixon (4 catches for 94 yards, 2 TD) to injury. Additionally, the Knights were flagged eight times for 51 yards. Nixon (collarbone) and McCrae (foot) are listed a questionable for Saturday's game.
Gabriel, who accumulated 365 yards -- which was previously a career-high -- through the air against ECU a year ago, completed 27 of 41 passes against Georgia Tech and added 30 rushing yards. Gabriel also had both of the Knights turnovers, fumbling once and being intercepted once. Anderson (19 carries for 88, 1 TD; 3 receptions for 21 yards) led the way against Georgia Tech on the ground but three players got at least nine carries, including Bentavious Thompson who totaled 30 yards on 12 carries and a score. Wide receiver Marlon Williams (10 receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns) and Jaylon Robinson (6-105) picked the slack up after Nixon got hurt.
Linebacker Eriq Gillyard led the Knights with 10 tackles and one forced fumble. Defensive back Richie Grant registered nine tackles while Josh Celiscar and Stephen Zayas each picked off a pass.
OUT: QB McKenzie Milton, OL Allen Adams, RB Elijah Benoit, OL Lamarius Benson, DL Mason Cholewa, RB Trillion Coles, TE Jordan Davis, DL Kalia Davis, QB Darriel Mack Jr., DB Devunte Dawson, DB Tay Gowen, OL Adrian Medley, DL Kendrick Wilson
Questionable: WR Tre Nixon, OL Parker Boudreaux
East Carolina Aims To Start Season On Right FootWhile East Carolina is projected to finish at the bottom of the AAC, second-year coach Mike Houston appears to have the Pirates trending upwards. ECU returns 12 starters, including eight on the offensive side, from a team that played SMU and Cincinnati tough despite finishing the season with a 4-8 record as well as 1-7 in conference play.
Dual-threat quarterback Holton Ahlers leads the returnees. Ahlers showed tremendous improvement last year and progressed even more throughout the year. The 6-foot-3 junior completed 59.7% of his passes for 3,387 yards to go along with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 359 yards and six touchdowns. Ahlers surpassed the 300-yard plateau five times, which included passing for 313 yards and one touchdown versus UCF. Ahlers has plenty of weapons and Houston added Arkansas transfer running back Chase Hayden to mix this offseason. Hayden accumulated 4.7 yards per carry in his two and one-half years with the Razorbacks. 2019 leading rusher sophomore Demetrius Mauney (125 carries for 446 yards) and Darius Pinnix (73- carries for 289 yards, four touchdowns) are also expected to receive plenty of time in the backfield. ECU also returns their top three receivers in Tyler Snead (66-for-759 yards, 5 TD), CJ Johnson (54-for-908, 4 TD) and Blake Proehl (54-for-670, 4 TD).
Defense is an issue particularly the defensive line. The Pirates allowed nearly 470 yards, with 207 of the yards coming on the ground, and 33.7 points a game last year. Appalachian State transfer Chris Willis, who sat out last year, recorded three sacks while also forcing a fumble in 2018 while Houston also added Alabama transfer defensive back Nigel Knotts. Big things are expected from LB Xavier Smith, who led the team with 81 tackles, DB Davondre Robinson (71 tackles, 3 INT) along with DB Ja'Quan McMillan (38 tackles, 3 INT).
OUT: OL Avery Jones
The Pirates are:
- 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as an underdog.
The Knights are:
- 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
- 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games after allowing more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
- 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games as a favorite.
- 2-6 ATS in their last 8 conference games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
While I believe UCF will come out on top of this matchup for the fifth time in a row, I am taking the points and ECU. ECU has a lot of offensive returning firepower as well as several playmakers on the defensive end. I also think that Ahlers will give UCF’s defense fits like he did last year. The key for the Pirates will be to stop the Knights ground attack, essentially making UCF one dimensional as well as limiting the big play. They also will need solid offensive line play and some production out of the return game.
Prediction: East Carolina +27.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I expect that will be a ton of points in this affair as believe that both Gabriel and Ahlers will thrive. UCF’s offense has shown that they can keep drives going while their fledge season is vulnerable to allowing a big play every now and then. Moreover, the over is 7-2 in the last nine meetings between the clubs.
Prediction: Over 77