No. 13 UCF opens AAC schedule by visiting East Carolina

No. 13 Central Florida (1-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) at East Carolina (0-0, 0-0), Saturday at noon ET (ABC).

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Line: UCF by 27.

Series record: ECU leads 10-8.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

UCF is the preseason AAC favorite and is playing the second of two straight road games to open the season. The first was a lopsided win at Georgia Tech last weekend. Now the Knights open league play as the AAC's highest-ranked team, though No. 14 Cincinnati lurks right behind them. As for the Pirates, it's a delayed opener to their second season under Mike Houston. ECU was originally scheduled to host Marshall on Aug. 29, though that game was pushed to Sept. 12 — and then postponed again to a to-be-determined date after the Pirates had to pause football activities in August due to a coronavirus cluster.

KEY MATCHUP

East Carolina’s new defense against UCF QB Dillon Gabriel. The Pirates ranked among the worst defenses in the Bowl Subdivision ranks last year, surrendering 33.7 points and 469.3 yards per game. The Pirates brought in Blake Harrell in January as the new defensive coordinator, but that unit returns only five starters with none from the line. That new-look defense must find a way to pressure Gabriel, who threw 29 touchdown passes as a freshman then opened this season by throwing for 417 yards and four scores against Georgia Tech.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

UCF: WR Marlon Williams. He opened his senior season with career highs of 10 catches for 154 yards to go with two touchdowns. He joined with Jaylon Robinson (105 yards) in giving the Knights a pair of productive targets for Gabriel in the Georgia Tech win.

ECU: QB Holton Ahlers. The junior is a two-way threat who threw for 3,387 yards and 21 touchdowns while running for six scores. He showed his upside last year in a shootout loss to a ranked Cincinnati team, throwing for a school-record 535 yards with four touchdowns while also running for a score.

FACTS & FIGURES

UCF had 660 yards and 31 first downs in the Georgia Tech win, including a 10-for-16 conversion rate on third downs. ... UCF linebacker Eriq Gilyard had 10 tackles with two tackles for loss in the win. ... The Knights have gone 35-4 over the past three seasons. ... UCF has won four straight and six of seven in the series with ECU. ... The Pirates went 4-8 in Houston's first season, including 1-7 in the AAC.