ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — UCF receiver Dredrick Snelson couldn’t help but smile as he contemplated the nearly 50 points per game East Carolina’s defense is allowing this season.
The Pirates head into UCF’s Spectrum Stadium to take on 22nd-ranked Knights and their explosive offense Saturday night.
“We are going to have a fun time Saturday night,” Snelson said. “That’s basically how I look at it, but we’re still not going to sleep on them. They are a good football team to us and we will still prepare the same way but the points, we’re putting up 70.”
On paper, this American Athletic Conference matchup seems like a mismatch. The Knights, who are in the second year of Scott Frost’s speed-driven scheme, boast the nation’s top scoring offense averaging 47.5 points per game. ECU is ranked last out of the 129 FBS schools in scoring defense, surrendering 47.8 points per game.
Frost knows that his team can’t overlook the Pirates if UCF (4-0, 2-0 AAC) wants to remain unbeaten and in contention for the league title. Frost reminded the Knights about Iowa State’s 38-31 upset of third-ranked Oklahoma before UCF played at Cincinnati.
The Knights second-year coach will surely caution his squad again before Saturday night’s kickoff.
“Those games happen, it’s college football,” Frost said. “People play up, people play down. It’s hard to be at your absolute very best 11 or 12 weeks in a row. “Our guys understand that people are going to be coming at them and we have to be at our best every week, especially in this conference.”
The Knights have been pretty good each week — so far.
Sophomore quarterback McKenzie Milton has made a major jump from being thrown in as a starter his true freshman year. And he has an array of speed and talent playing with him, whether it’s Adrian Killins out of the backfield or receivers Tre’Quan Smith or Snelson making catches on deep throws.
East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery hopes his defense can find a way to slow down the Knights, who are winning by an average of nearly 32 points this season.
“They are playing at a higher level on offensive than we have seen this year,” said Montgomery, whose team is 1-2 in AAC play. “They are averaging a ridiculous amount of yardage per play and last week… I think they had under 50 plays but they had so many big plays in the passing and running game.”
Some other things to watch when No. 22 UCF hosts East Carolina on Saturday:
FORCE FIELD: Milton is having an impressive sophomore season and much of that has to do with the protection he is receiving from his offensive line. Milton has only been sacked one time this season and that came last week against Cincinnati.
TURNOVER RATIO: The Knights have been good at protecting the ball and equally astute at taking it away. UCF ranks second in the nation in turnover margin — they have forced 11 turnovers committed just three.
DEFENSIVE PIRATES: East Carolina’s defense has taken the blame for much of the team’s slow start but the Pirates do have a couple of defensive stalwarts among their front six. Senior inside linebacker Jordan Williams ranks third in the AAC in tackles with 49 and defensive end Kiant Anderson is third in the league with 3.5 sacks this season.
THIRD-DOWN TROUBLES: One area the Knights will need to address is their third-down defense. They had been among the nation’s best until last week when the Knights allowed Cincinnati to convert 9 of 15 third downs to drop 29 spots to 33rd in the country in third-down defense.
OUTER SPACE: UCF will unveil new uniforms on Saturday that will pay homage to the space program and the school’s connection to NASA. The jerseys will have a space mission patch on the left shoulder and the helmets will feature the moon landscape on the logo and a photograph of Andromeda Galaxy taken by the Hubble space telescope.
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