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Week 9 Game Preview: East Carolina Pirates vs Tulsa Golden Hurricane

The Golden Hurricane look to stay perfect in conference play when East Carolina comes to town for a Friday Night Showdown

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Tulsa at ECU Photo by Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game Time: 9:00 pm EST

Records: ECU 1-3 (1-2 AAC), TLSA 2-1 (2-0 AAC)

Line: TSLA -17.5; O/U 61

Venue: Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK

TV: ESPN2

The Tulsa Golden Hurricane return home in search of their third straight win when they host the East Carolina Pirates on Friday night. The Pirates are hitting the road once again following a bye week.

East Carolina squared off with Navy two weeks ago and fell behind 27-13 after three quarters. The Pirates battled back by scoring 10 points in the fourth but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell short 27-23. Tulsa also had success against South Florida, winning in dominant fashion last Friday by a score of 42-13.

Tulsa seeks its third straight win in the series, which would even the all-time tally at 8-8. The Golden Hurricane started with three straight wins against the Pirates, which won six in a row from 2008-15 before Tulsa came back with wins in 2016 (45-24 in Tulsa) and 2019 (49-24 in Greenville).

Why ECU Will Win

The return of Holton Ahlers! Ahlers will be back under center for the Pirates as he missed the Navy game after testing positive for COVID-19. Mason Garcia was okay as a fill-in but the potential offensive firepower this team has with Ahlers on the field is undeniable.

He will need to rise to the occasion as Tulsa is very formidable against the pass only yielding 224 yards per game. An area to exploit will be the rushing defense. Rahjai Harris has surpassed 100 rushing yards in each of the last two games, rushing for 172 yards and a touchdown against Navy after amassing 115 yards and a pair of touchdowns against USF.

Offensive balance was paramount in the Pirates only win of the season against USF so the Pirates will need to be patient and methodical moving the ball down the field.

Defensively, ECU has found a way to right the ship somewhat in limiting USF and Navy to 24 and 27 points, respectively. The Pirates enter the week allowing over 458.3 yards per game, including 212.8 rushing yards. Turnover margin will be a crucial way to mitigate the amount of yards the defense yields.

UCF vs East Carolina Photo by Conor Kvatek/Collegiate Images via Getty Images

Why Tulsa Will Win

Tulsa found some momentum offensively against USF, scoring a season-high 42 points in the win. Quarterback Zach Smith was efficient rather than electric, completing 16-of-24 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and interception. He has five touchdowns through three games in 2020.

Smith has the all the arm talent in the world which he has shown at Baylor and at Tulsa. It’s trying to combine the electric arm with the efficiency. Therefore, the USF game was a huge step and he will have chances against the Pirates defense that he must exploit.

ECU has been bad on the ground so watch out for the Tulsa backs to have big days to come out victorious. So look for Deneric Prince and Corey Taylor II to be focal points of the offense.

Defensively, they have been nothing short of dominant. The Golden Hurricane maintain a top-20 scoring defense at just 18.3 points allowed per game, and their 10.7 tackles for a loss per game lead the American and is the fifth-best rate in the FBS. Linebacker Zaven Collins has been a key part of that attack, with three sacks and eight TFLs in three games. Collins will be all over the field to stop the run and pass for Tulsa.

Key Players

ECU

QB: Holton Ahlers

RB: Rahjai Harris

LB: Aaron Ramseur

DB: Warren Saba

Tulsa v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Tulsa

QB: Zach Smith

RB: Deneric Prince

LB: Zaven Collins

DB: Kendarin Ray

Prediction

The Golden Hurricanes have looked like a dark horse candidate to win the conference and they have yet to play a home game this season so I can see them being very motivated to put in a solid performance on Friday.

Tulsa should be able to take advantage of the Pirates’ defensive struggles while the Golden Hurricane leverage the strength of their defense in Ahlers’ return to game action.

Tulsa 37, East Carolina 20