South Florida-East Carolina
Start Time: 7:30 PM EST, Saturday, November 7
Location: Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, North Carolina
Radio: South Florida: here. East Carolina: here.
Records: South Florida: 4-4. East Carolina: 4-5. South Florida leads the overall series 4-1.
Live Stats: here.
Line: East Carolina -4. Over/Under: 54.
South Florida Outlook: The South Florida Bulls head into this game right on the verge of making a jump to the upper tier of the AAC.
The main reason for that improvement is a defense that has looked better and better as the season has progressed. No team has scored more than Navy's 29 points in AAC play versus the Bulls defense. The run defense does a great job in holding teams to only 3.9 yards per carry on the season. The occasional big play has been a source of concern, but that has been rectified for the most part.
The Bulls are one of the better pass defenses in the nation. They have seven different players that have intercepted passes on the season and force teams to take the check down pass. As a result, they have been able to get off the field and win the field position battle.
As with any Willie Taggart team, it is all about running the football and sprinkling in some passes. The Bulls have a stud running back in sophomore Marlon Mack. Between him and quarterback Quinton Flowers, they have rushed for nearly 1,300 yards. Darius Tice has also proven to be a solid rusher when called upon.
The passing game is a bit tricky as Flowers has yet to find any sort of consistency. This 60.5% completion rate contradicts the fact that two of his top three targets, Chris Barr and Ryeshene Bronson, have catch rates below 58%. The coaching staff still does not trust the passing game as only four players on the team have 20 or more targets on the year.
East Carolina Outlook: After playing so well very quality competition, the Pirates looked completely out of sorts in a loss to Connecticut.
The run game that was once an ever improving aspect of the ECU offense is back to its normal struggles. Chris Hairston and Anthony Scott make up a solid 1-2 tandem, but rarely have room to run the ball with a 25.3% stuff rate, good for eighth worst in the nation.
James Summers has been good running the ball from the quarterback position, but has not been solid enough passing the ball to stay on the field full time. With a good run defense on the way from South Florida, it is quite conceivable to see the run game all but vanish this week.
Blake Kemp is the quarterback for ECU when they need to pass. His 1,878 yards passing and 69.8% completion rate make those looking at statistics alone wonder why he isn't the unquestioned starter. His turnover numbers (10 interceptions, 4 lost fumbles) make it a risk to send him out as the full time starter.
The Pirates do have some great pass catching options in wide receiver Isaiah Jones and tight end Bryce Williams. The two have accumulated 101 catches for just over 1,200 yards on the season. Trevon Brown, Davon Grayson and Hairston also give both quarterbacks many solid options in the pass game.
Depth has been the achilles heel for ECU on defense. They play well for a half or even three quarters before they run out of gas and give up big plays. The run defense has been improving since getting routed earlier in the season versus Navy. Still, giving up over 175 yards per game on the ground will make it hard to win. The ECU pass defense is up and down with the ability to make plays, but also give up way too many yards per reception. A 14.0 yards per catch allowed is way too high.
Prediction: This game could honestly go either way. For East Carolina, it is all about getting solid quarterback play. For South Florida, it is about the run game and playing solid defense. The ECU defense will find just enough in the tank to pull off the win. East Carolina 28, South Florida 24.