AAC College Football Picks: Central Florida Knights at East Carolina Pirates

Central Florida Knights at East Carolina Pirates
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium – Greenville, North Carolina

Thursday, December 4, 2014, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: East Carolina -5 1/2
Current Line; East Carolina -7 (+100)
Opening Total: 54 1/2
Current Total: 56
Opening Money Line: ECU -275 / UCF +230
Current Money Line: ECU -255 / UCF +215

East Carolina hosts Central Florida in a key AAC contest to close out the regular season. UCF can clinch a share of the AAC title with a win.
East Carolina hosts Central Florida in a key AAC contest to close out the regular season. UCF can clinch a share of the AAC title with a win.

The 8-3 Central Florida Knights close out the regular season at the 8-3 East Carolina Pirates Thursday night. UCF is 6-1 in the American Athletic Conference and tied with Cincinnati for second behind 7-1 Memphis. The Knights will earn a share of their second straight conference title with a win Thursday. Memphis has completed their season and Cincinnati hosts Houston on Saturday. Memphis beat Cincinnati earlier in the season but Central Florida didn’t play either team. There is really no tiebreaker if the Knights are tied for the conference lead. East Carolina is 5-2 and tied for third with Houston.

East Carolina leads the series 9-3 against Central Florida. The Knights have won 2 of the last 3 games against the Pirates including 40-20 in 2012 when both were members of Conference USA. ECU has won 3 straight games against UCF in Greenville.

Central Florida is coached by George O’Leary. The Knights have a loss to Penn State 26-24 in Dublin, Ireland, plus road losses to Missouri 38-10 and against Connecticut 37-29. UCF has won 3 straight games since being upset by UConn. The Knights have home wins over Bethune-Cookman 41-7, BYU 31-24 in overtime, Tulane 20-13, Temple 34-14, Tulsa 31-7 and SMU 53-7, plus road wins at Houston 17-12 and South Florida last week 16-0. UCF is 7-4 ATS and the total is 5-6. The Knights were 10 point favorites against USF and the total was 42.5. 

East Carolina is coached by Ruffin McNeill. The Pirates have road losses at South Carolina 33-23 at Temple 20-10 and Cincinnati 54-46. East Carolina has won two straight games since the Cincinnati loss. ECU has home wins over NC Central 52-7, North Carolina 70-41, SMU 45-24, Connecticut 31-21 and Tulane 34-6, along with road wins over Virginia Tech 28-21,  South Florida 28-17 and Tulsa last week 49-32. The Pirates are 5-6 ATS and the total is 5-6 this season. ECU was an 18.5 point favorite against Tulsa and the total was 70.

Central Florida is outscoring teams 28-17 this season. UCF is #5 in points allowed and #74 in scoring. The Knights are averaging 358 yards per game on offense including 227 passing and 131 rushing yards. UCF is #107 in total offense and #105 in rushing nationally. On defense, the Knights are allowing 271 yards per game including 166 passing and 105 rushing yards. UCF is #9 or better nationally in all three categories. The Knights are -3 in turnovers with 24 takeaways. UCF is averaging 58 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 80. The Knights are 84/190 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 64/182. UCF has forced 28 sacks and allowed 24 this season. The Knights are 37/46 scoring in the red zone with 24 touchdowns, and opponents are 22/32 including 13 touchdowns. UCF has allowed a defensive touchdown and a punt return for a touchdown this season. The Knights have a kick return for a touchdown.

UCF quarterback Justin Holman has completed 58.8% of his passes for 2,387 yards with 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, along with 95 carries for 154 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Running back William Stanback has 153 carries for 558 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 9 catches and 2 touchdowns. He is probable with an undisclosed issue. Dontravious Wilson has 92 carries for 338 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 13 catches. He is questionable with a shoulder injury. Micah Reed has 55 carries for 212 yards, plus 5 catches.

Receiver Breshad Perriman has 37 catches for 767 yards and 8 touchdowns. J.J. Worton has 36 catches for 514 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is out for the season with an undisclosed injury. Josh Reese has 26 catches for 415 yards and 3 touchdowns. Rannell Hall has 36 catches for 357 yards.

East Carolina is outscoring teams 38-25 this season. The Pirates are #14 in scoring and #53 in points allowed nationally. ECU is averaging 544 yards per game on offense including 365 passing and 180 rushing yards per game. The Pirates are #3 in total offense and #3 in passing nationally. ECU is allowing 365 yards per game on defense including 262 passing and 103 rushing yards. The Pirates are #107 in pass defense and #7 in rush defense. East Carolina is -2 in turnovers with 15 takeaways. The Pirates average 77 penalty yards per game and opponents average 69. ECU is 86/179 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 71/191. The Pirates have 17 sacks and allowed 23 this season. ECU is 53/61 scoring in the red zone with 43 touchdowns and opponents are 27/31 with 19 touchdowns. The Pirates have two pick sixes and have allowed 3 defensive touchdowns and a punt return for a touchdown.

ECU quarterback Shane Carden has thrown for 3,912 yards with 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, along with 76 carries for 88 yards and 6 touchdowns. Running back Breon Allen has 128 carries for 848 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus 31 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown. Chris Hairston, Marquez Grayson, and Anthony Scott will also get a lot of carries. The trio have accounted for 9 rushing touchdowns. Kurt Benkert also has 2 touchdown runs.

Receiver Justin Hardy has 98 catches for 1,194 yards and 8 touchdowns. Isaiah Jones has 70 catches for 708 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cam Worthy has 43 catches for 846 yards and 2 touchdowns. Trevon Brown has 14 catches for 264 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is out with a knee injury. Bryce Williams has 16 catches for 224 yards and 4 touchdowns. Seven defensive players and three wide receivers are out for the Pirates.

UCF is 6-0 ATS in Thursday games, 6-1 after allowing less than 20 points, 5-1 against teams with winning records, 4-1 in AAC games, overall, after scoring less than 20 points, and on grass, 6-2 after a straight up win, 22-8-1 after passing for less than 170 yards, 5-2 against teams with winning home records, and 35-15-1 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards. The Knights have covered 4 of the last 5 against the Pirates.

East Carolina is 7-2 at home, 4-9 after scoring more than 40 points, 7-19 after a straight up win, 4-15 against teams with winning records, 1-4 after failing to cover, after passing for more than 280 yards, and on grass, 1-6 in AAC games, and overall and 0-4 in Thursday games. The home team is 5-1 ATS in this series recently.

Both of these teams have struggled with turnovers. Central Florida can’t get into a shootout with East Carolina. The Knights would like to keep the game in the 20’s and the Pirates would be more than happy to play a game in the 30’s or higher. I think the Pirates win a close game at home.

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