Conference USA football may not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of Week 6's star-studded matchups, but who doesn't love a Thursday night game to get you primed for the weekend?
The East Carolina Pirates and the Central Florida Knights will face off in what will be a very competitive contest. Each team brings a pair of losses into the game, but a win on Thursday will go a long way toward their dreams of a conference title.
East Carolina enters the game following a Week 5 victory over Texas El-Paso, while the Knights lost a hard-fought battle to the Missouri Tigers.
Let's not waste anymore time. Here's a full preview of Thursday night's Conference USA tilt.
Game Day Information
Who: East Carolina at UCF
When: Thursday, October 4, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Orlando, Fla.
Stadium: Bright House Networks Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: WNCT 107.9 FM (East Carolina), UCF Sports Network
East Carolina Depth Chart
QB: Shane Carden (backup: Rio Johnson)
RB: Vintavious Cooper (backup: Michael Dobson)
WR: Reese Wiggins (backup: Jabril Solomon)
WR: Andrew Bodenheimer (backup: Lance Ray)
WR: Justin Hardy (backup: Justin Jones)
WR: Derrick Harris (backup: Danny Webster)
LT: Edhem Alsawi (backup: Isaac Harris)
LG: Jordan Davis (backup: Drew Gentry)
C: Taylor Hudson (backup: Josh Clark)
RG: Will Simmons (backup: Drew Gentry)
RT: Robert Jones (backup: Grant Harner)
DE: Lee Pegues (backup: Matt Milner)
NT: Terry Williams (backup: Michael Brooks)
DE: Michael Brooks (backup: Chrishon Rose)
OLB: Derrell Johnson (backup: Chris Baker)
ILB: Montese Overton (backup: Maurice Falls)
ILB: Jeremy Grove (backup: Ty Holmes)
OLB: Kyle Tudor (backup: Brandon Williams)
CB: Adonis Armstrong (backup: Kristopher Sykes)
S: Chip Thompson (backup: Lamar Ivey)
S: Damon Maqazu (backup: Justin Venable)
CB: Joshua Hawkins (backup: Leonard Paulk)
K: Warren Harvey (backup: Conor Torruella
P: Trent Tignor (backup: Brendan Rowland)
LS: Charlie Coggins (backup: C.J. Struyk)
KR: Lance Ray (backup: Derrick Harris)
PR: Justin Hardy (backup: Andrew Bodenheimer)
Central Florida Depth Chart
QB: Blake Bortles (backup: Tyler Gabbert)
FB: Billy Giovanetti
RB: Latavious Murray (backup: Storm Johnson or Brynn Harvey)
HB: Dontravious Floyd (backup: Brendan Kelly)
WR: J.J. Worton (backup: Jeff Godfrey or Josh Reese)
WR: Quincy McDuffie (backup: Rannell Hall or Breshad Perriman)
TE: Justin Tukes (backup: Chris Martin)
LT: Torrian Wilson (backup: Michael Campbell)
LG: Theo Goins (backup: Kelly Davison)
C: Jordan Rae (backup: Tarik Cook)
RG: Jordan McCray (backup: Colby Watson)
RT: Justin McCray (backup: Phil Smith)
DE: Victory Gray (backup: Deion Green)
DT: Jose Jose (backup: Thomas Niles or Andrew Rice)
DT: E.J. Dunston (backup: Josh Wofford or Joey Grant)
DE: Troy Davis (backup: Cam Henderson)
OLB: Jonathan Davis (backup: Troy Gray)
MLB: Terrance Plummer (backup: Willie Mitchell)
OLB: Ray Shipman (backup: Mark Rucker)
CB: A.J. Bouye (backup: Jacoby Glenn)
SS: Clayton Geathers (backup: Jared Henry)
FS: Kemal Ishmael (backup: Lyle Dankenbring)
CB: Jordan Ozerities (backup: Brandon Alexander or Bruce Dukes)
K: Shawn Moffitt (backup: Sean Galvin)
P: Jamie Boyle (backup: Caleb Houston)
LS: Scott Teal (backup: Matt Morrison)
KR: Quincy McDuffie (backup: Rannell Hall or Storm Johnson)
PR: J.J. Worton (backup: Jeff Godfrey)
What This Game Means for Both Teams
Each team is fighting for its stake in the Conference USA standings. East Carolina, at 3-2, currently sits in first place in the East side of the conference. UCF is third, at 2-2.
Neither squad plays a ranked opponent from here on out, but the Knights will face a stiff competition from Southern Miss and Southern Methodist before the year is over. UCF must also face the West division leader, 4-0 Tulsa later in the year.
The Knights need this win, so possible losses later don't leave as much of an impact.
The Pirates simply want to stay afloat atop the division, fighting off all comers. If they can win this game, it could be clear sailing (get it) from here.
Key Player for East Carolina: QB Shane Carden
Carden has dynamic dual-threat potential, but he's also erratic at times. Because of his inconsistent play, he holds the Pirates' key to victory more times than not.
He's thrown for 693 yards and three touchdowns this season to go with four interceptions. He's also run three scores in, using his legs to break containment and make the opposing defense pay for their over pursuit.
Carden certainly has the ability, but he must tone it back a bit sometimes. He makes poor decisions, something that could even the playing field in a game like this.
He's coming off of a 28-of-40 game against Texas El-Paso in which he threw one TD and ran for two more. As it goes, he also threw three picks.
Key Player for UCF: RB Storm Johnson
Johnson is getting better and better as each game goes by. The former Miami Hurricane ball-carrier took the rock 15 times for 93 yards against Missouri last Saturday, his best game of the season thus far.
He has game-breaking speed, especially if you allow him to hit the second level. The Knights do not have many elite playmakers who can hurt you in the open field, but he's an exception to the rule.
East Carolina holds an advantage in many aspects of this game. Allowing Johnson to get loose early could change that notion in a hurry.
After leaving Miami, he has something to prove, and he's playing like it.
Final Prediction: UCF 30, East Carolina 24
Johnson will be the difference for a Knights team that came very close to upsetting Missouri last Saturday. This squad is more competitive than its 2-2 record might show, and it'll show in front of its home crowd on Thursday.
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