UCF vs. East Carolina Betting Odds & Picks: Can Knights Cover on the Road?

UCF vs. East Carolina Betting Odds & Picks: Can Knights Cover on the Road? article feature image

Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Image. Pictured: Kam Moore (UCF)

UCF vs. East Carolina Odds

Saturday, Oct. 22
7:30 p.m. ET
UCF Odds
-110o / -110u
East Carolina Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

Red-hot UCF makes its first trip outside of the state of Florida to take on an inconsistent ECU team.

The Knights are playing their best ball of the season and have fixed a lot of the offensive problems that plagued them in their Friday night primetime loss to Louisville in Week 2.

They also have one of the best defenses in the Group of Five.

ECU’s up-and-down season is defined by up-and-down quarterback Holton Ahlers. As Ahlers goes, so go the Pirates. That has typically meant losses to teams with tough defenses and wins over foes with more accommodating stop units.

Does ECU have enough to slow down UCF’s rushing attack? Can it get anything going on offense against a UCF defense playing at its best?

Central Florida Knights

The Knights have rallied from that Week 2 falter and caught fire on both sides of the ball.

The Knights' offense has flourished with quarterback John Rhys Plumlee’s improved passing. Plumlee is a dynamic athlete, one of the best in the country at the position. In fact, he ended his Ole Miss career as a wide receiver.

However, his inaccuracy against Louisville sank the Knights, as he completed 48% of his passes for only 158 yards with six Turnover Worthy Plays.

Since that fateful night, he has completed 70% of his passes for 269 yards per game, with a total of seven Turnover Worthy Plays in those four contests.

Plumlee’s improved passing creates room for the rushing game so that teams can't sell out to defend the thing UCF truly wants to do. The Knights are 18th in the country in Rush Rate — it’s what they do best. UCF is 17th in the country in Rushing Success Rate and 34 in explosive rushes.

Plumlee is the leading rusher with 501 yards on the ground before subtracting yardage lost from sacks. Most of that total (407 yards) is from designed runs.

Supplementing Plumlee is the three-headed monster of running backs in Isaiah Bowser, Johnny Richardson and RJ Harvey. The trio has combined for 850 yards at a 5.4 yards per carry clip.

UCF has one of the best Group of Five defenses in the country, ranking 18th in defensive SP+. However, it has one weakness — it's susceptible to explosive rushes, and ranks 122nd in that category.

That is a strength of ECU, as running back Keaton Mitchell is one of the fastest players in the country and could be good for a home run in this game.

Otherwise, UCF is good-to-great everywhere. The front seven doesn’t allow you to move the chains with regularity on the ground, rating fifth in Rushing Success Rate. The Knights are middle-of-the-pack in passing defensive metrics, although they are great at creating Havoc (18th in the country).

Lastly, they are one of the best overall at the “bend, but don’t break” defense, ranking second in the country in points allowed per ECKEL, Parker Fleming’s metric that measures what teams do with their scoring opportunities.

East Carolina Pirates

The Pirates have had an up-and-down season.

Last week, they escaped Memphis in a game that featured four overtimes. Before that, they were handled at Tulane, which followed a blowout win over USF, which followed an overtime loss to Navy.

East Carolina might represent the exact average FBS team. For a Group of Five team, that’s pretty good. The Pirates are 66th in overall SP+, with the 53rd-ranked offense and the 66th-ranked defense.

They are not a one-sided Group of Five team, like, say a Coastal Carolina or a Troy. They don’t do anything particularly great or anything catastrophic — well, except special teams, where they rank 127th in SP+.

The two stars are quarterback Ahlers and the aforementioned big-play running back Mitchell.

Ahlers is a strikes-and-gutters quarterback, as he is very inconsistent based on the defensive caliber of his opponent. For as good as he has looked against USF (94.9 QBR) or Memphis (86.5), he looked bad against Navy (60.2) and Tulane (40.1).

Ahlers has struggled in his four cracks against UCF, going winless in all four attempts and posting stat lines more reminiscent of the second batch of QBR numbers than the first.

On defense, ECU is seventh in EPA defending the run, but a ghastly 104th in EPA against the pass. This could be a problem against a UCF offense that is going to get theirs on the ground.

That means ECU is going to need to find a way to limit the passing attack if it hopes to have success.

There are a few ways to attack this UCF offense. First, keep it off-schedule. The Knights' Success Rate on offense is 23rd in the country, but drops to 81st on Passing Downs. If you can force them to be unsuccessful on Standard Downs, you can force them into unfavorable conditions.

Second, it’s not a great offense at Finishing Drives. It's 11th in FBS in ECKEL rate — which is how often it creates quality possessions — but only 67th in the country in Points per ECKEL (quality possessions).

Unfortunately for ECU, neither of these countermeasures are strengths for the Pirates' defense. The Pirates are 66th in Standard Down Success Rate, so UCF can stay on schedule. They are also only 55th in points per ECKEL, so they don’t stand you up in the red zone.

UCF vs. East Carolina Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how UCF and East Carolina match up statistically:

UCF Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
Rush Success1724
Line Yards1228
Pass Success46100
Pass Blocking**11129
Finishing Drives7845
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

East Carolina Offense vs. UCF Defense
Rush Success524
Line Yards12027
Pass Success5065
Pass Blocking**7574
Finishing Drives793
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling4744
PFF Coverage4275
SP+ Special Teams86127
Seconds per Play25.3 (35)25.6 (44)
Rush Rate61.1% (18)46.6% (106)
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.

UCF vs. East Carolina Betting Pick

ECU is a frustrating team, often following up its best performances with let downs.

Meanwhile, UCF is white hot and has everything clicking on both sides of the ball.

I think ECU is a solid Group of Five outfit, but the Knights are a poor matchup for it.

The UCF offense isn’t perfect, but the ECU defense hasn’t shown the ability to slow it down, and UCF’s defense is a notch above where ECU’s offense wants to be.

I will lay the points with the road favorite, and I think the Knights will win by a touchdown or more.

Pick: UCF -5 (Play to -6.5)

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