Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 12
Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida
Records: East Carolina 1-0, Florida 1-0. (Florida leads overall series 2-0).
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: East Carolina +20.5. Over/Under: 52.
East Carolina Outlook: For the first time in a couple of years, it was all about the running game for the East Carolina Pirates in the season opener. Fifth year senior Chris Hairston (18/154/4TD) led the way for an ECU offense that put up 229 yards on the ground. Quarterback Blake Kemp (29-37/230/0TD) was solid in his first start since his JUCO days with Isaiah Jones (6/77/0TD) adapting well to being the top pass catching option. The Pirates ended the day with 440 total yards and 28 points in the season opening win.
The Pirates defense, expected to be a strength heading into the season, was a bit of a disappointment for the majority of the season opener. Towson rushed for 179 yards and threw for 237 yards in route to 416 yards, 27 first downs, and 20 points. Inside linebackers Zeek Bigger and Jordan Williams combined for 20 tackles with one sack. The defense as a whole made seven tackles for loss, two sacks, and one interception.
Week one was a mixed bag for East Carolina with the running game, especially the offensive line, playing well and Kemp putting in a solid first game at quarterback, but the defense cannot afford to give up the yardage they gave up to Towson again. Florida is next on the slate, a team that ECU played last season in the Birmingham Bowl.
Florida Outlook: The Gators were impressive in head coach Jim McElwain's debut, piling up over 600 yards of total offense versus New Mexico State. Florida accumulated 28 first downs and scored 63 points in the win. Florida played two quarterbacks with Treon Harris (14-19/215/2TD) and Will Grier (15-17/164/2TD) both seeing the field in the blowout win. The running game is still in a bit of flux as five different players carried the ball at least five time, but no one carried the ball more than eight times. 14 different Gators caught passes in the win, led by Demarcus Robinson (6/34/0TD).
The Gator defense was dominant in holding New Mexico State to only 200 total yards on the day. Senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, sophomore defensive back Jalen Tabor, and junior linebacker Alex Anzalone led the way with five tackles a piece in the win.
The Gators got in a good season opener versus an overmatched opponent but proved yet again just how talented of a defense they have in Gainesville. The offense has several steps to move forward after a disasterous 2014 season but proved in week one that the talent is there to score lots of points in McElwain's scheme.
Prediction: East Carolina faces off versus Florida for the second time in three games with both teams looking much different than last season. The Pirates must be able to run the ball with Hairston and Anthony Scott (12/70/0TD) versus a very stout Florida defense. If the line cannot move the Florida defensive front in the run game, it will take a Herculean effort from Kemp and the passing game to keep ECU in line for an upset.
ECU's defense should have some success versus the Gator offense, but McElwain will have that offense humming soon. Forcing the Gator quarterbacks into stupid mistakes, running the football, and limiting turnovers are the keys to an East Carolina win. Despite that, Florida is just too good defensively and ECU's passing game is not ready for a challenge of the Gators. Florida wins by 10+ points.