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How and what to watch for UCF vs. East Carolina

East Carolina will open its 2020 season with a visit from a high-scoring, top-15 team.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The 13th-ranked UCF Knights raised the curtain on their 2020 season Saturday against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and proved that their offense is still one of the nation’s best. The Knights, which have ranked among the FBS’ top six in scoring and total offense in each of the past three seasons, dropped 49 points and 660 yards on the Yellow Jackets in a 49-21 road romp. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw for a career-high 417 yards, and UCF’s defense added five takeaways.

The East Carolina Pirates will try to counter the Knights with their own star quarterback. Junior Holton Ahlers racked up more than 3,300 yards and 21 passing TDs last season, but he really came alive down the stretch. In his final four starts, Ahlers averaged 428 passing yards per game and recorded a 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Ahlers had to do it all because the Pirates’ running game and defense were each at or near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference.

This will be East Carolina’s first game of 2020. These teams last faced off in 2019, when the Knights triumphed at home, 41-28. Gabriel accounted for 365 passing yards and three total scores, and UCF ran for nearly 200 yards. The Pirates made the score look competitive, but they trailed 35-6 at the half.

The Pirates lead the all-time series, 10-8, but the Knights have taken the last four meetings. Since the start of the 2017 season, UCF is 36-4. ECU is 10-26.

Game Time/TV Channel/Streaming

Saturday’s game will start at noon ET from Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina. The game will be aired on ABC.

Point Spread, Totals, Odds, Trends

Point spread: UCF (-27.5) vs. East Carolina
Point Total: O/U 77 (-110)
Money line: UCF (-5000), East Carolina (+1400)

  • East Carolina is 3-7 against the spread in its last 10 home games.
  • East Carolina is 1-5 against the spread in its last six home games as an underdog.
  • UCF is 13-2 straight up in its last 15 road games.
  • Six of the last seven games between these teams have gone over the total.

The Best Bet

As of Thursday, this game has the highest total on the FBS board this weekend. However, 77 doesn't seem out of reach. Despite those five takeaways, the Knights’ defense was generally unimpressive against a conservative Georgia Tech offense. That was a 28-14 game in the second quarter before the Knights really pulled away, and their defense still allowed 471 yards of offense. The Knights have averaged 47 points in four meetings against ECU dating back to 2016, when their up-tempo style of offense was born, and the 2020 version of UCF's offense may be its deepest yet. The Pirates’ defense, which was sub-100 in numerous categories last year, will not provide any resistance, so expect a lot of action and a lot of points Saturday.

Pick: Over 77.

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