While I may have suffered my first losing Saturday record in a long time in Week 7, I did manage a sad smile when UCF finally came back to beat Memphis 31-30. Central Florida didn’t cover the spread, but at least the mid-major College Football Playoff dream is alive for 1 more week. Meanwhile, I’m pretty sure nobody in the U.S. predicted the final score of LSU-Georgia.
Those hardcore Memphis Tiger fans among BetFirm blog readers were probably feeling the reverse – sad about the loss but at least glad that the snotty handicapper lost too. They noticed that my advice “don’t bet against streaks” sounded like an insult by omission.
Memphis had a streak of its own, you see, the 4th-longest home winning streak in the FBS. It’s not that I didn’t look at the Tigers’ most recent schedules and results, but their road scores have been so wacky that the streak almost seemed like a coincidence.
That’s no knock on Memphis – the program is capable of playing better on the road and was obviously strong vs UCF despite having no functional home-field advantage due to the rain and UCF’s hardy cheering section. I looked up some other previews of the same scrum, and CBS among others also only mentioned the Knights’ undefeated run as THE streak to consider. Not that that means it makes sense, but the real factor holding the #10 guests back was that McKenzie Milton did not look like himself.
The 10th-ranked Knights are still 3-score point spread favorites to beat ECU this weekend.
Who: Central Florida Knights at East Carolina Pirates
When: Saturday, October 20th, 7 PM EST
Where: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC
Lines: UCF (-21) at ECU (+21) / O/U Total: (66)
Central Florida (6-0) was able to escape from a trip to Memphis last weekend with its nation-leading 19-game win streak still intact. A tight 31-30 meeting in the rain saw the Golden Knights score 17 unanswered points to close out the game.
Milton bounced-back from a poor showing in their game a week prior against SMU in the 4th quarter. But he was immobile in the pocket and inaccurate often over the first 3 frames. The UCF rushing game also struggled to get things going against a solid front-4 from Memphis, a similar issue could be had this week against a surprisingly strong ECU run-defense. Look for Milton to lean on his favorite target, sophomore receiver Gabriel Davis, who is averaging nearly 15 yards per catch on the season.
Josh Heupel will need to ensure that his team does not overlook East Carolina. UNC paid for that same mistake earlier in the season, despite being 17-point favorites when they traveled to ECU.
But the UCF defense travels well and the Golden Knights have been very solid on defense all year long. Not only that, but they now face a sub-100 ranked offense from the Pirates. A sharp contrast from the Memphis Tigers.
East Carolina has suffered back-to-back losses against 2 of the AAC’s best, and now must face the league’s top team in Central Florida. For a squad that had very little expectations coming into the year, a stretch of quality opponents doesn’t feel quite as back-breaking of a stretch as it would be for some.
Head Coach Scottie Montgomery can bring the hosts into this game with nothing to lose. But if the Pirates are able to keep this game competitive for a while, it will be due to the strength of their defense. Defensive coordinator David Blackwell has somehow managed to coach-up a Top-40 run defense in Greenville that is forcing teams to throw the ball to beat the Pirates. That’s impressive given the school’s limited reach in recruiting.
For the Pirates to give UCF a scare, true-freshman QB (earning his first start) Holton Ahlers will also need to produce at the same level as we have seen from him in spot-duty for the Pirates so far this season. It’s like one of those hot rookie DBs in the American League of MLB who winds up getting put in the field in the ALDS. Unfortunately for Ahlers, he will not get much help from the rushing attack.
UCF has every little tape on Ahler to breakdown his tendencies. But the Knights pitched a shutout in the 2nd half against Memphis a week ago. We will, however, keep an eye on how this ECU offense progresses as the season continues with the new change at QB.
Central Florida is good enough to win this game by 60 points if the Knights focus like it’s another Sugar Bowl against Auburn. I’m thinking they’ll have a lot to prove to themselves and others after nearly blowing it all in Tennessee. Especially the run defense. It could be an ugly stat line for ECU.
Take the Knights to cover and the Under (66) total points.