The Central Florida Knights will be hoping to remain undefeated when they visit the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday night. Central Florida most recently improved to 5-0 with a 31-30 victory at Memphis last weekend. The Pirates are 1-3 in their last four contests following a setback against Houston.
Control the controllables
Central Florida is nothing if not confident. After all, this is the program that declared itself the national champion of the 2017 season even though its best win was over a team that did not even win its conference (Auburn). Now the Golden Knights–or at least their fans–are griping about not moving up in the rankings after just barely scraping past Memphis 31-30 this past week. Georgia was the only top-10 team that lost, and the Bulldogs were all the way up at No. 2 so a road setback against a strong LSU foe was never going send them all the way down under Central Florida.
“I really still do believe at the end of the year that they’re going to look at who we played, how we played, gone undefeated if you run the table and then that will take care of itself,” head coach Josh Heupel commented. “At the end of the day, we’re a long ways away from that conversation inside of our team, inside of our building. We can only control what we can control, which is our preparation today and how we go play on Saturday. At the end of the day, people are going to look at this conference, look at who we’ve played, look at the crossover scores and I think we’ll be where we want to be if we handle our business.”
"You continue to fight and find a way to win those games. Good teams…championship teams…do that. " -Heup
More from Coach, KZ and Gabe Davis from Monday's presser 👇 pic.twitter.com/MQSFtalxz8
— UCF Football (@UCF_Football) October 15, 2018
“Rankings are rankings and it’s been like that since last year,” quarterback McKenzie Milton said. “So it is what it is, and we’re just going to go out and keep winning games and keep doing what we’re doing.”
What the Knights are doing is scoring a whole lot of points. They have put up at least 31 in all six of their contests, including 45 or more on four occasions. Milton is running the show to the tune of 1,797 passing yards, 204 rushing yards, and 22 total touchdowns.
Changing of the guard
East Carolina’s offense struggled during a 42-20 loss to American Athletic Conference rival Houston last Saturday night. That means the Pirates have scored a grand total of 26 points in their two most recent outings, as the setback against the Cougars was preceded by a 49-6 rout at the hands of Temple. ECU has managed to find the end zone just twice since their date with Old Dominion on Sept. 28.
“Offensively, in the first, second and third quarter, I think we had no rhythm,” head coach Scottie Montgomery explained following this past week’s performance. “We’ve got to look at some different things. We’ve definitely got to have some change coming here soon.”
And that change is coming now, as freshman Holton Ahlers will start at quarterback against Central Florida. Ahlers replaced Reid Herring, a sophomore who was 26-of-42 for 229 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions against Houston. He also fumbled once, which UH returned for a touchdown. The backup led East Carolina to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, capping off drives of 96 and 62 yards. Ahlers finished 11-of-18 for 137 yards, one score, and no interceptions.
“We cheer each other whatever quarterback is in there,” Herring assured. “Our quarterback room is very close. Whenever someone succeeds, we’re all happy. That was a good moment for him.”
The East Carolina Pirates are:
- 14-36-1 ATS in their last 51 overall
- 3-9-1 ATS in their last 13 home games
- 7-27-1 ATS in their last 35 conference games
The Central Florida Knights are:
- 6-2 ATS in their last eight overall
- 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight road games
- 7-2 ATS in their last nine games against teams with losing records
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Pirates, who have lost three of their last four games, needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns against Houston’s backups to make the final score look even somewhat respectable. ECU has been outscored 111-39 in AAC games so far this season. And the Pirates may not be entirely focused on UCF because three of their final six are opponents are currently ranked in the top 25. That is daunting stuff for a relatively untalented team. Meanwhile, Heupel said linebacker Pat Jasinski “will be back and ready to go” this week after the senior missed significant time against Memphis with what appeared to be an ankle injury. Central Florida is 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings between the two teams.
Prediction: Central Florida Knights
Full-Game Total Pick
Milton was named AAC Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season after helping rally the Knights from a double-digit deficit to beat Memphis. The junior was 17-of-29 for 296 yards and a touchdown and his seven-yard touchdown run proved to be the game-winner. Also, UCF kicker Matthew Wright was named AAC Special Teams Player of the Week after contributing seven points against the Tigers. The over is 5-2 in the Knights’ last seven conference contests. It is also 11-4 in the Pirates’ last 15 at home against opponents with winning road records. Additionally, the over is 6-1 in the last seven meetings between the two teams and 4-1 in Central Florida’s last five trips to East Carolina. Look for this one to go over the total.