Why You Should Give A Hoot: East Carolina has already knocked off one in-state rival from the ACC, North Carolina, this season. Next up is a trip to Raleigh to face NC State. The Pirates have an interesting tune-up for their game of the year, a visit to Marshall next Friday that'll decide the East Division of Conference USA. ECU has convincingly won its last four games, averaging more than 50 points along the way. The Pack is rebuilding for first-year head coach Dave Doeren, who's attempting to pick up the pieces from the Tom O'Brien era. State is winless in league play, last picking up a victory on Sept. 28 against Central Michigan. While the coach has plenty of work to do, he also has the time and the support needed to get this program where it hopes to be in the future.
Why East Carolina Might Win: The Tar Heels had no answers for the Pirate offense earlier in the year. The Pack won't either. State has been gutted in the last two weeks by Duke and Boston College, neither of which has as much pop or balance as East Carolina. It can counter with the one-two punch of Shane Carden's passing and the running of Vintavious Cooper. Carden will solve the Pack secondary, padding gaudy numbers that include 29 touchdown passes.
Why NC State Might Win: If the Pack is going to snap the six-game losing streak, it'll need to catch the Pirates looking ahead to the game that'll decide their league title. The one thing that State has done relatively well in 2013 is create takeaways. It'll be incumbent upon the defense to generate momentum-changing plays, such as stops behind the line from linemen Thomas Teal and Art Norman, or picks from cornerbacks Dontae Johnson or Juston Burris.
Who To Watch Out For: Somewhat lost in all of the points that ECU is scoring is the fact that the defense leads Conference USA in yards allowed and run defense. OLB Derrell Johnson, in particular, is having the kind of senior season that's garnering attention from NFL scouts.
- Doeren never did get his quarterback situation figured out this season, with Pete Thomas and Brandon Mitchell combining for five touchdowns and 15 picks. Fret not Pack fans—Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett is eligible in 2014.
- The Pack has not blocked well this season, bad news with the Pirates invading Carter-Finley. East Carolina has 32 sacks this fall, with four different players getting to the quarterback at least 4.5 times.
What Will Happen: This game matters to East Carolina, and it'll show in its intensity. The Pirates are better on both sides, but especially in the backfield. Carden and Cooper will help keep ECU humming on offense, jumping all over a team that's playing as if it already has a foot in the offseason.
Prediction: East Carolina 39 … NC State 21
Line: East Carolina -6.5 o/u: 55
CFN's Take: NC State vs. ECU
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