First look: Football Schedule

Michael Prunka provides a brief look at what to expect each of ECU's 12 games in 2013, in addition to which ones will give the Pirates the most problems.

With just one month until college football kicks off with the South Carolina Gamecocks hosting the North Carolina Tar Heels, there's no better time to take a look at the 12 opponents East Carolina will see on the gridiron this season.

Old Dominion: The Monarchs are coming off a dominant season that saw them take first place in the Colonial Athletic Association. With 16 returning starters, ODU's potent offense that led the FCS in many offense categories should remain a glaring threat.

Florida Atlantic: ECU welcomes Florida Atlantic (61-83-0 overall) to Conference-USA for the first meeting ever between the schools. FAU averaged allowed just over 30 points per game last season, which should make playing against the likes of Shane Carden, Justin Hardy and Vintavious Cooper tough for the Owls.

Virginia Tech: The Pirates' three-game season-opening homestand closes with Virginia Tech (696-441-46 overall) coming to town. In their last meeting in 2011, the Hokies defeated ECU 17-10.

Despite posting a 6-6 record last season, Virginia Tech had a pretty solid defense – finishing near the top 30 in the points against department (22.8). With nine returning defensive starters, they be even stronger in 2013.

North Carolina: Following a bye week, The Pirates hop on the road for a showdown against in-state foe UNC. This will likely be ECU's toughest of the season. The last time the Pirates won in Chapel Hill was 1975 and the Tar Heels will return quarterback Bryn Renner and a couple of his lethal offensive weapons.

Middle Tennessee: ECU's first road conference contest will be at Middle Tennessee (537-396-28 overall). Of all the new teams in Conference-USA East, Middle Tennessee has the most potential to make an immediate impact. Even so, the Pirates should be able to handle the Blue Raiders, who allowed 441 yards per game last season.

Tulane: The Pirates hit the midseason mark with their third consecutive road game—this time against Tulane (498-600-38 overall). Tulane should be improved, but the Superdome is familiar territory for the Pirates. Even though they fell to Louisiana Lafayette in last year's R+L Carrier New Orleans Bowl, the Pirates outlasted the Green Wave 28-23 last season.

Southern Miss: ECU finally returns home to host a rivalry game. For the last time in C-USA, the Pirates take on Southern Miss (556-382-26 overall). After three big games in the first half of the season, there's no way to tell how much momentum they'll have come week 7.

At the same time, the Golden Eagles will be in the midst to adjusting to new head coach Todd Monken, who replaced Ellis Johnson after the team went winless in 2012. Even though they have star running back Jalen Richard among their returning starters, ECU should have no issues with the Golden Eagles.

Florida International: After its second bye week, ECU is back on the road to meet Florida International. Among all the C-USA's new members, FIU (42-88-0) is in the roughest shape. The Golden Panthers only won three games last year and have just six starters returning. Perhaps a change of scenery could lead to a major bounce back season, but the more likely scenario is that the Pirates take this conference matchup decisively.

Tulsa: Back in Greenville, ECU host the defending C-USA champion Tulsa Golden Hurricane (595-454-27 overall). If last season is any indication, the Pirates will have their hands full on both sides of the ball. The Golden Hurricane's rushing offense averaged 245.7 yards per game and their defense held opponents to an average of 23.6 points. Tulsa was picked unanimously by C-USA's head coaches to win the West Division again.

Alabama-Birmingham: In the last home game of the season, ECU welcomes in UAB (110-137-2 overall). The Blazers had a disappointing 2012, but head coach Garrick McGee enters his sophomore season with returning offensive staples. After setting records as a freshman, QB Austin Brown is back with his favorite targets: wide receiver Jackie Williams and tight end Kennard Backman.

N.C. State: In the penultimate game of the season, the Pirates travel to Raleigh to revive their rivalry with NC State (557-541-55 overall). ECU and NC State both were both stellar through the air last season, but the Wolfpack lost quarterback Mike Glennon to the NFL.

Even though their quarterback situation is still uncertain, it's always entertaining when these two teams meet. ECU won the last meeting in 2011 against a Russell Wilson-led Wolfpack team, but hasn't won in Raleigh since 2006.

Marshall: Per tradition, the ECU wraps up the season against Marshall. After their double-overtime thriller last season, the Pirates and Thundering Herd have a lot to live up to.

Marshall could prove to be trouble for the Pirates with possibly a division title on the line. With the tandem of QB Rakeem Cato and WR Tommy Shuler as the backbone of the Thundering Herd's offense, this contest should feature tons of offense yet again.

Most difficult game: North Carolina

Not only have the Pirates not won in Chapel Hill in almost 40 years, but scoring on the Tar Heels has been a problem in recent years. The last time they put up more than 20 points against UNC was when they defeated the Tar Heels in 2007. Shane Carden and company will have their work cut out for them.

Trap game: Middle Tennessee

The school's meeting in October will be the Blue Raiders C-USA debut, but more importantly, the game is wedged between huge rivalry games versus Virginia Tech and UNC. If the Pirates overlook them for a moment, they could be in trouble.

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