Why to watch: East Carolina played with fire last weekend and darn near got burned. The Pirates, darlings among the non-BCS schools, needed to rally late in the fourth quarter against Tulane to avoid being on the other end of an upset. They better get used to seeing the other team’s best effort, which is what they’ll experience as an unbeaten and ranked program. North Carolina State has sputtered to a 1-2 start, beating William & Mary in a game that was sandwiched between losses at South Carolina and Clemson, respectively. These two schools have a long history and are separated by just 90 miles, so more than just a victory will be at stake. For the Wolfpack, it has a chance to build some momentum with a rare win over a Top 25 team.
Why East Carolina might win: The way the Pirates are playing defense, they shouldn’t have many problems with the Wolfpack. Take out the game with William & Mary, and the Pack offense has produced one field goal in eight quarters. The passing game has miserable and the offensive line will struggle to control a big East Carolina front that’s led by end C.J. Wilson and tackle Jay Ross. Despite opening with ranked teams, the Pirates lead Conference USA in pass defense and are No. 2 in total defense.
Why NC State might win: With no help whatsoever from the offense, the Wolfpack D has single-handedly kept the program from getting humiliated in the first three games. LB Nate Irving is having an All-ACC start and Willie Young can be a nuisance rushing around the edge. The East Carolina offense has been mortal during the three-game winning streak, averaging 26 points and failing to get the running game started against Tulane. While QB Patrick Pinkney is performing like an MVP, the rest of the Pirates can be controlled by the State defense.
Who to watch: It didn’t catch up with East Carolina last week, but at some point, the lack of a running game could be their downfall. While it’s a shared problem with the offensive line, it’s incumbent upon Brandon Simmons and Jon Williams to start making something out of nothing. The Pack has been inconsistent in run defense, so this week would be a good time to get on course.
What will happen: For the second straight week, East Carolina will have to scratch and claw in order to preserve its perfect record. It’s a good thing N.C. State is a mess on offense or else this game would be doubly dangerous for the Pirates. They’ll survive behind the play of Pinkney, who’ll be a rock when the game is tight in the second half.
CFN Prediction: East Carolina 17 … NC State 14 ... Line: East Carolina -7.5
Must See Rating: (5 Dr. 90210 - 1 Biggest Loser: Families) … 2.5