Billy Embody: The burning question of the week is will Phillip Nelson play and if so, what does he bring to the quarterback position? If not, where do the Pirates turn?
Kevin Devine: "All signs are point towards Philip Nelson to start. During practices this week, ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery stated that Nelson was fully participating in practice and looked sharp. Nelson brings a leadership quality and veteran instincts that no other quarterback can offer on ECU’s roster. Nelson also knows the offense because he has been under center for all but one game this season. If things go south with Nelson, Gardner Minshew, who threw 300-plus yard game against Tulsa will play."
BE: Take us inside Dowdy-Ficklen. What is it about that stadium that makes it so tough for opponents? What can SMU expect as the road team?
KD: "Dowdy-Ficklen has an electric atmosphere, and poses a challenge for any team who plays there. Pirate Nation likes to have their presence felt and are known for being loud. SMU can expect a rowdy student section in the Boneyard and when that crowd gets going, it is easy for a team to lose focus and get caught up in the noise."
BE: Scottie Montgomery took over for Ruffin McNeal this season. What are the differences between the two and where has the team improved?
KD: "To start off, they are both very vocal and very charismatic guys who liked high-powered offenses. I hadn’t really had the time to talk to coach McNeil so I’m not ure how they differ. However, what Montgomery has done is continue the tradition of having a top receiver come through the program. Zay Jones is currently second all-time, only to fellow Pirate Justin Hardy all time in FBS receptions."
BE: What's the scouting report on ECU's defense and how they'll defend an up-tempo, spread attack that SMU will bring to town?
KD: "SMU will definitely prove to be a challenge for ECU’s defense. Players like LB Dayon Pratt and DB DaShaun Amos are going to have step up and set the tone for the Pirate defense early. ECU is also going to have to do their best to get pressure on the quarterback, which is another area in which they have struggled in 2016. However, if ECU gets aggressive upfront, it could prove to be the difference in the game."
BE: How do you see this game playing out? Got a prediction for the game?
KD: "I think it’s going to be a close game – maybe even a shootout if both offenses get going. I’m going to play this one a little more conservative with a score prediction, however, and my guess is 35-32 ECU. I think playing at home in front of the Dowdy-Ficklen stadium will prove to be an advantage for ECU.: