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#10 UCF vs. East Carolina: Preview and Prediction

Knights look to make it 20 straight wins as they take on the Pirates

UCF v Florida International
Adrian Killins
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

There’s no team that UCF has faced more than the East Carolina Pirates. This will be the 17th meeting between the two teams since they first played in 1991. Both programs were once the powerhouses of Conference USA, combining for all 4 conference championships from 2007-2010. With East Carolina lacking success in recent seasons, the matchup has sort of lost it’s flare. Nonetheless, this year’s matchup will be a great opportunity for UCF to bounce back with a dominant performance on the road against a conference foe.


The 10th-ranked Knights and the Pirates will kick off at 7:00 p.m. at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina.



East Carolina leads 10-6.

Last meeting: 2017. Nothing East Carolina did on defense could stop UCF last season. The Knights put up 63 points off of 603 yards of offense while KZ was 21 of 27 for 324 yards with 3 total TD’s. The Pirates showed some signs of life, capitalizing on some big run plays but the Knights would walk away with the 63-21 victory.

East Carolina Coming In

You never know what East Carolina team you’re going to get this season. There’s the team that beat UNC 41-19 and was tied with South Florida going into the 4th quarter. Then there’s the team that lost to NC A&T and to Temple by 43 points. At 2-4 (0-3), the Pirates are bottom dwellers in the AAC East and it should remain that way after this week.

When UCF Has the Ball

UCF Offense: Have a short memory. UCF struggled in almost every phase of the game last week against Memphis. They had a hard time establishing the run and McKenzie was sacked 4 times, both very uncharacteristic of UCF. The Knights need to forget about last week’s woes and get back to what they do best which is scoring a lot of points.

East Carolina Defense: Improved but not great. Last season, UCF was essentially able to do whatever they wanted on offense against East Carolina. The Pirates have definitely improved on that side of the ball, only allowing 351 yards per game which is 41st in the country. They have, however, given up a ton of points. They are ranked 100th in points allowed, averaging 32.2 per game.

When East Carolina Has the Ball

East Carolina Offense: Fresh meat. It was announced that true freshman Holton Ahlers will make the start at quarterback against the Knights. He’s thrown just 28 passes in his short career. He’ll go up against a solid UCF secondary who make a living off of turnovers. Ahlers is extremely mobile so you may see the Pirates rely heavily on the ground game.

UCF Defense: Stop the run. Last week was a tough outing for the UCF defense. Despite that, I still see them improving every week. The second half adjustments Randy Shannon made against Memphis gave the offense the opportunity to come back and win the game. UCF allowed zero points and only 151 yards in the second half of that game. Facing a mobile quarterback has proven to be a tough challenge for the Knights. With Ahlers being a true freshman, I think his nerves will push him to try and make most plays with his feet. Randy Shannon’s defense needs to win the battle in the trenches and play in the backfield as much as possible.

Final Details

Weather: There’s a 90% chance of rain during the day that should hopefully clear out by kickoff. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we could see the type of game played in the second half of last week’s game.

Line: UCF is a 21-point favorite

Pick: UCF 58, East Carolina 20


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