Start Time: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, Oct. 17
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina.
Records: East Carolina: 3-3, Tulsa 3-2. East Carolina leads the overall series 7-5.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: East Carolina -12. Over/Under: 78.
East Carolina: Statistics do not tell the tale for the Pirates in the run game. A success rate of 40.5% (#84), an S&P+ of 90.0 (#108), and a stuff rate of 25.1% (#119) say that ECU has been struggling to run the football. That has not been the case with James Summers (38/332/5TD) at quarterback. With his presence, Chris Hairston (93/378/6TD) and Anthony Scott (29/129/1TD) look like better players in the run game. Overall, the Pirates average 146.7 yards per game on the ground.
While Summers is a spark in the run game, quarterback Blake Kemp (146-204/1,478/10TD) is the spark of the pass game. The pass game is #19 nationally with a success rate of 47.5%. Isaiah Jones (48/562/3TD), Bryce Williams (28/333/3TD), Davon Grayson (17/203/2TD), and Trevon Brown (14/213/3TD) have made an impressive quartet of receiving options for Kemp. Hairston is also a good receiver out of the backfield with 20 catches on the season. The Pirates are averaging nearly 300 yards per game in the air and 441.3 total yards per game.
2015 has been a frustrating season for the ECU defense with the defense ranking #107 in success rate (46.2%) and #91 in points allowed per trip inside the 40 (4.92). While those numbers are very disappointing, the defense has done a good job of limiting the big play, especially versus the run. Offenses are only sporting a rushing IsoPPP of 0.93 versus the Pirates (#29). That is good for 187.8 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry on the season.
Passing the ball versus ECU has been more successful with a success rate of 41.9%, an IsoPPP of 1.56, and an S&P+ of 96.1. Those are all good for #80 or worse nationally
Players to watch in the ECU defense include: Zeek Bigger (45 tkl, 1 tfl), Jordan Williams (45 tkl, 4 tfl, 2 sacks, 1 int), and Montese Overton (41 tkl, 7.5 tfl, 6 sacks).
Tulsa: The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes offense is talented with an IsoPPP of 1.29, good for #49 nationally. That IsoPPP rank is almost exclusively from the passing game as Tulsa ranks #19 nationally in passing IsoPPP while ranking #118 on the run side. Quarterback Dan Evans (125-202/1,839/10TD) is the leader of the pass game with top receivers Keyarris Garrett (41/628/1TD), Keevan Lucas (26/409/5TD), and Joshua Atkinson (28/440/2TD) combining for 76.4% of all pass targets. As a whole, Tulsa passes for 367.8 yards per game.
Running the ball has proven to be a little harder as the season has progressed. The Golden Hurricanes are #65 or worse in success rate, S&P+, and IsoPPP. Zach Langer (135/520/10TD) and D’Angelo Brewer (63/362/1TD) have seen their averages drop in the last few games as defenses put more emphasis on stopping the rushing attack. As a team, Tulsa has dropped to 3.9 yards per carry after averaging well over four yards per carry in previous weeks.
Defense has also been an issue for Tulsa with only a points allowed per trip inside the 40 of 4.26 keeping the defense from being in the bottom half nationally in every major category. Offenses have been able to run the ball at will with a 5.6 yards per carry average and 45.4% success rate. The defense is giving up three rushing touchdowns per game.
Pass defense is even worse with Tulsa giving up 284.2 yards per game, but nearly eight yards per pass attempt. Overall, the Golden Hurricanes are giving up 553.6 yards per game of total offense.
Players to watch on the Tulsa defense include: Michael Mudoh (60 tkl, 1.5 tfl), Matt Linscott (47 tkl, 9.5 tfl, 3.5 sacks, 1 int), and Trent Martin (41 tkl, 6 tfl, 2 sacks).
Prediction: Tulsa is a team that plays very well on offense, but cannot figure out how to play consistent and aggressive defense. East Carolina is one of the better 3-3 teams in the nation and could easily be 4-2 or even 5-1 if a few breaks fell differently. This should be an exciting and fairly high-scoring game that will be entertaining on television. Expect the Pirates to do just enough to win. East Carolina 38, Tulsa 34.