CFN's Take: NC State vs. East Carolina

College Football News takes a look at Saturday's contest against East Carolina.

NC State (1-5) at East Carolina (4-3)  4:30 EST, CSTV

Why to watch: Worse than just being 1-5, NC State hasn’t been competitive this season, and didn’t appear to be making strides heading into last week’s bye.  The Wolfpack has lacked basic fundamentals throughout 2007 or an offense capable of sustaining drives or succeeding in enemy territory.  As if things couldn’t get much worse, starting RB Andre Brown has joined Toney Baker on injured reserve, and starting QB Harrison Beck is trying to recover from a separated shoulder.  First-year head coach Tom O’Brien will spend the second half of the year learning more about his young kids, while getting a head start on 2008.  East Carolina could care less that NC State is down.  Having already beaten North Carolina this fall, it knows what it’ll mean around the state, particularly to recruits and fans, to handle the Wolfpack as well in the same season.  The Pirates have parlayed three consecutive wins over Houston, UCF, and UTEP into first place in Conference USA East, getting enough on offense to overcome a leaky defensive unit.

Why NC State might win: The East Carolina defense played real well in the opener at Virginia Tech…and then the bottom fell out.  The Pirates have been routinely shredded by good and bad offenses alike, slipping to 107th nationally in total defense, while yielding 35 or more points in each of the last four games.  Although the Pack has done little right on offense this fall, that could change on this week’s trip east to Greenville.  Promising sophomore Jamelle Eugene takes over at running back two weeks after rushing for more than 100 yards against Florida State.

Why East Carolina might win: A Pirates offense that got real hot in October isn’t going to be cooled by an NC State defense that’s next-to-last in the ACC in both points and yards allowed.  The Wolfpack has been particularly bad against the run, which will open things up for speedster Chris Johnson to make plays in the open field.  QB Rob Kass has ignited the ECU passing attack since returning to the huddle, giving the offense the balance it’s needed to score 134 points over the last three games.  Things probably wouldn’t be so bad for the Pack D if the team wasn’t last in the country in turnover margin, an impossible hurdle for any school to overcome.

Who to watch: In his final year of eligibility, Johnson is making quite a salary run in front of NFL scouts that love his 4.2 speed and multi-dimensional skill set.  The team leader in rushing, scoring, touchdown catches, and kickoff returns is a one-man gang that’ll attract the attention of the entire Wolfpack defense every time the ball is in his hands.

What will happen: East Carolina and its fans really want this game, giving them an emotional edge to go along with the physical advantage.  The Pirates will capitalize on NC State mistakes in a game that they’ll never trail.

CFN Prediction: East Carolina 33 … NC State 21  ... Line: East Carolina -5.5

Must See Rating: (5
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