This one has a championship-like feel to it.
UCF (5-2) and ECU (5-2) meet up at Bright House Networks Stadium this Saturday.
Both teams are winners of three straight.
Both are undefeated in conference play, UCF (3-0) and ECU (4-0).
No. 1 passing offense in East Carolina, No. 1 passing defense in UCF.
Oh, this is a good one. It’s all a recipe cooked up for a huge conference showdown and the time for UCF to finally prove one thing: They are ready to be the kings of Conference USA.
The Pirates have won the conference title the last two years after the Knights won it in 2007. They’ve dominated the all-time series with the Knights, leading it 8-1, but don’t let the record fool you. Five of those games have been decided by 10 points or less, including four of the last five meetings. Last season, the Knights had five turnovers and still had a chance to win it in the final seconds of a 19-14 defeat in Greenville.
This meeting just feels different.
UCF is off to it’s best start since 1998 while ECU has defeated North Carolina State and hasn’t scored less than 33 points all season. Both teams have electric, playmaking quarterbacks in Jeffrey Godfrey and Dominique Davis. Both teams feature playmakers at the wide receiver position and on special teams.
This Saturday won’t just determine who will be in the drivers seat for a chance to host the Conference Championship game on Dec. 4, it will also determine if UCF is just as good as they’ve shown so far this season.
Many could argue this team should be 7-0. They had chances to take down both A-Q schools in the Wolfpack and Kansas State, but they couldn’t capitalize. This game is in their grasp and will determine if this team can hang with the big boys.
Defensively, the Knights will have to pass one of their biggest tests of the season. In their two losses, they’ve allowed almost 23 points a game. In their wins, they’ve given up just over 10 points a game. They will be up against ECU’s elusive quarterback Davis.
The Lakeland native has completed 63 percent of his passes this season, tops in conference, and is second among conference quarterbacks in passing yards and touchdowns thrown. He threw for 376 yards, accounted for three touchdowns and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes against the Wolfpack, the fourth best passing efficiency defense in the ACC. He’s responsible for almost 19 points a game for the Pirates and ranks 9th in the nation in total offense accounted for for his team.
All in all, UCF’s defense will have their work cut out for them.
Offensively, the Knights will need to continue to do what they do well: run the football and dominate the time of possession. In their five wins they’ve dominated the time of possession and have averaged 197 yards on the ground. Good news is ECU gives up an average of 35.3 points per game, 105th in the nation.
The Knights have done what they are supposed to do. They’ve beaten up on the bottom feeder teams in conference and have proved they won’t go away anytime soon. Now is the time to prove that 2007 wasn’t a fluke. To prove that winning the conference title is something they can do year in and year out.
It may not be the conference championship game, but it sure feels like it.
Ryan Bass is a columnist for Knightnews.com. Check out his website here.