Start Time: 12:00 PM EST, Saturday, November 28
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina
Records: Cincinnati: 6-5. East Carolina: 5-6. East Carolina leads the overall series 12-6.
Live Stats: here.
Line: East Carolina -1.5. Over/Under: 67.5.
Cincinnati Outlook: High preseason expectations have come falling to the wayside as Cincinnati can finish the regular season with no better than a 7-5 record.
On paper, the Bearcats look to be one of the best offenses in the nation with 571.3 yards of total offense accumulated per game. Looking closer, things are not as happy as they seem. The quarterback combination of Gunner Kiel and Hayden Moore is good for over 4,000 yards in the air, but also have 18 interceptions.
The duo is very successful and explosive, but tend to add yards at the end of losses to make things look better than they really were. Case in point is the 65-27 loss to South Florida as the Bearcats were completely dominated, but put up enough in garbage time to look respectable.
The Bearcats have a plethora of upperclassmen to pass the ball to with each of the top six receivers on the season playing their senior season. Shaq Washington is the player to watch with 73 catches on the season, 32 more than any other player on the roster. While seeing fewer targets, Chris Moore is catching the ball at a 22.0 yards per catch average. He is explosive and talented, but only catches 58.5% of the passes thrown his way.
I could lie and say that Cincinnati is decent on defense, but they are not. Even their 31.5 points allowed per game is deceptive as they have given up 53, 38, 34, 33, and 65 points in their five losses. That adds up to a 44.6 points per game allowed in losses.
The best bet is running the ball against the Bearcats defensive front that allows over five yards per carry. The pass defense is statistically better, but they can be gouged for significant gains. Just watch a few minutes of the USF game film and the explosive passing plays stand out.
Players to watch on the Cincinnati defense include: Silverberry Houhon, Eric Wilson, and Zach Edwards.
East Carolina Outlook: For ECU, the entire season comes down to how well they play in this game. A win and they are bowling, a loss and they are staying home.
Maybe the last time to watch the 2015 intro video before a game, so let's enjoy it.
The Pirates made the switch back to Blake Kemp for the Central Florida game and had their best offensive performance of the season. The offense is at its best when a quarterback is throwing at a high rate to their multitude of talented receivers. Kemp has a 69.8% completion rate with 15 touchdown passes, while sharing durites with James Summers.
When passing, it is all about getting the ball to wide receiver Isaiah Jones and tight end Bryce Williams. The duo is being targeted on 44.3% of all pass attempts with 139 catches for 1,532 yards and eight touchdowns. While not quite the weapons that Jones and Williams are, the duo of Trevon Brown and Davon Grayson are very talented with over 800 yards receiving combined.
As explosive as the passing game becomes under Kemp, the running game loses all effectiveness with him at quarterback. Senior Chris Hairston is the top rusher with 738 yards on 158 carries. No other running back has over 200 yards on the season. Summers is an effective rusher from the quarterback position, but will see very limited duty with Kemp holding the starting role. Overall, the Pirates average 417.3 yards per game of total offense.
Defensively, the Pirates have a tendency to run out of gas as the game hits the fourth quarter. They play well early and end up with a fourth quarter defensive S&P+ of 92.0, the #101 ranked team in the nation for that category. While allowing 4.1 yards per carry, that number is a bit inflated from facing some of the better run games in the nation.
The ECU pass defense gives up only 222.5 yards per game, but have a nasty habit of giving up big plays at inopportune times.
Players to watch on the ECU defense include: Zeek Bigger, Montese Overton, and Terrell Stanley.
Prediction: This is a huge game for the Pirates with hopes of going to a bowl on the line. Cincinnati has been a disappointment this season after being picked at the preseason AAC champs. I think ECU finds just enough offense to pull out the win. East Carolina 24, Cincinnati 21.