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UCF’s Week 8 Checklist vs. East Carolina

The Knights will look to improve in a number of areas in their Homecoming game tonight

NCAA Football: Connecticut at Central Florida
The Knights hope to capture more sacks — like this one by defensive tackle Kalia Davis — versus East Carolina tonight.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

1. How will the UCF Knights perform in the red zone?

In 2018, UCF was fantastic in the red zone on both sides of the ball. They ranked inside the nation’s top 15 in both red-zone offense and defense. This year, they are up near No. 100 on each side. Offensively, turnovers and an inefficient running game have been most to blame. Defensively, the Knights have been confused in coverage at times and haven’t done enough to create their own turnovers inside the 20.

For what it’s worth, the East Carolina Pirates’ defense has given up points on 90 percent of their opponents’ red-zone possessions. That ranks 112th in the FBS.

2. How will the Knights’ offensive line hold up?

Cincinnati was able to get into the UCF backfield at will two weeks ago as the O-line missed a bunch of assignments. Now the Knights will have to deal with an ECU defense that is averaging 2.5 sacks and nearly seven tackles for loss per game. That front is led by defensive end Kendall Futrell, who sits atop the American in both categories. We’ll see if UCF can keep him from harrassing Dillon Gabriel often.

3. Can UCF’s defense get home?

More sacks — that is what defensive line coach Shane Burnham said he wanted to see most of all coming out of the team’s bye. The Knights’ defense has brought pressure pretty consistently, but they have recorded just five sacks in their past four games. Whether it comes thanks to their blitz packages or just from a four-man rush, UCF needs to see that pressure pay off with some impactful negative plays.

4. Can UCF keep the self-inflicted mistakes to a minimum?

It’s a simple question, but it has meant so much to the Knights in their two losses. In those games, they carried a minus-4 turnover margin and committed some game-changing penalties on each side of the line of scrimmage.

These issues haven’t been as glaring versus weaker competition, and East Carolina should definitely be considered as such. Honestly, the Knights should be able to overcome multiple mistakes tonight simply because ECU is not very good. So, this question will probably matter a lot more next week when UCF visits a very competitive Temple squad (foreshadowing).

But, in fear of stating the obvious, it would be nice to see the Knights not turn their recent sloppy play into a lasting trend.