Game Time: 12:00 pm EST
Records: UCF 1-0 (0-0 AAC), ECU 0-0 (0-0 AAC)
Line: UCF -27; O/U 77
Venue: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
Year 2 of the Mike Houston era begins with a conference match-up where many expect to be a shootout when #13 UCF Knights come to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday. The Pirates are coming off of a 4-8 overall campaign where they were 1-7 in conference. Last year’s game was a shootout with the Knights winning 41-28. The Knights will have an advantage by playing last week while the Pirates had their opening game postponed.
Both teams are looking to get to a fast start in conference play where defense may be optional this weekend. The added bonus is the game being moved to ABC from ESPN+.
Why East Carolina Will Win
ECU returns their highly potent offense that sizzled at the end of 2019. Dyanmic signal-caller Holton Ahlers and company look to build off their momentum offensively.
Ahlers had success last season against the Knights where he threw for 313 yards in defeat. The offensive weapons are plentiful at Ahlers disposal at his skill positions with Demetrius Mauney, C.J. Johnson and more.
Defensively the squad will be looking to hopefully contain the high-octane offense from the Knights. The secondary who were torn apart last season will need to show drastic improvement. Davondre Robinson and Ja’Quan McMillian must lead the way in order for the team to be successful.
The group is anxious to get that first big win—and beating the Knights would fit the bill.
Why UCF Will Win
UCF has had plenty of success lately, and quarterback Dillon Gabriel has a lot to do with that. Last week, Gabriel threw for a career-high 417 yards and 4 touchdowns against Georgia Tech.
The offense is potent and can score on any part of the field. Plus, the winning mentality showcased by this squad spurs confidence where they have won 36 of 40 contests since 2017.
The skill positions especially at receiver provide opportunities for Gabriel with Marlon Williams and Jaylon Robinson. Along with the potential return of Tre Nixon will be a significant boost for the Knights offense.
Defensively, Josh Celiscar had a phenomenal collegiate debut last week with a forced fumble and interception. If the pass rush can get home, it will be a long day for the Pirates.
Players to Watch
QB: Holton Ahlers
WR: C.J. Johnson
LB: Xavier Smith
DB: Ja’Quan McMillian
QB: Dillon Gabriel
RB: Otis Anderson
DE: Randy Charlton
DB: Richie Grant
This game will be a shootout and probably will be more high scoring than last season especially with many experts thinking the over/under total to be close to 80 points. The Pirates will hang around for a majority of the contest but I think not having any game reps yet will hurt them in the latter half of the game.
UCF just has too much firepower offensively and the ECU defense last season did not show anything for fans to be hopeful of but the offense will be just as potent as they were at the end of last season.
UCF 45, East Carolina 31