WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez vs. ECU head coach Steve Logan
We've looked forward to this matchup for a while, because it pits two aggressive coaches who aren't afraid to do things differently.
The anticipated matchup of trick plays has already been discussed -- Logan isn't averse to running gadgets in any situation, and Rich Rodriguez established his gambling nature early in his first year at WVU.
This year, Coach Rod has limited his arsenal to the occasional end around (which has almost become a routine running play in college), but don't think he doesn't have a few gimmicks ready to go.
The loss of A.J. Nastasi as the holder on placekicks might limit WVU's flexibility to run fakes in that area, but to a daring coach like Rodriguez, that might be just the smokescreen he wants to camouflage a fake from an area that the Pirates might be least expecting.
Even more interesting than the actual plays themselves will be the psychological battle the two coaches employ. Will one coach want to get a trick into play early? Will one of them want to wait and hang back with their gadgets as a response?
Both coaches need to make sure they don't get caught up in trying to outdo the other. We think that's a lesson that Rodriguez has learned, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
WVU safety Jahmile Addae vs. ECU Quarterback Paul Troth
This matchup is a direct offshoot of the first. Addae, an aggressive safety, figures to be tested by ECU's play action package, as well as by any gadgets the Pirates run.
Addae will have to check his keys carefully and not overcommit against the run, especially against laterals, and pitchouts, as the Pirate have an extensive reverse and option pass package.
As a true sophomore with little game experience, Addae is still learning many of the nuances of safety. He'll have to mature quickly to keep the Pirates from ringing up any long games off their fakery.
WVU defensive ends Tim Love, Kevin Freeman and Fred Blueford vs. ECU offensive tackle Brian Rimpf
The massive Rimpf spearheads the blocking for much of ECU's running game, and at 315 pounds has an appreciable size advantage over the Mountaineers' ends.
Rimpf, who is on just about every preseason honor watch list, will attempt to use his size against WVU's defensive end rotation.
On the other side of the line, Love, Freeman and Blueford will have to rely on sound technique in order to avoid getting folded down to the interior or kicked out to provide running room inside. Other than Miami, this could be the sternest test the right side defensive ends face this year.
This matchup is pretty simple to observe and analyze. Will Love be able to bull his way into the backfield to pressure Troth? Will Freeman be able to use his technique to hold his ground? Does Blueford have the experience to stand up to the tricks of a veteran opponent? Watch this battle unfold, and it should tell a good bit of the story in the clash between Pirate offense and Mountaineer defense.
THINGS TO WATCH:
In addition to their trick plays, East Carolina also uses motion and unique alignments to confuse the defense.
The Pirates will line up wingbacks and slotbacks all over the field, and bring them in motion on several different series.
With WVU's defense constantly realigning right up to the snap, ensuring that coverages are right, and adjusting to motion, will be critical factors in the success of the Mountaineer defense.
Keep an eye on WVU's safeties and linebackers as they make their presnap adjustments. Are they being made quickly and with confidence, or is there a lot of frantic waving going on?
WVU is still working to get all the nuances of the 3-3 stack down pat, and throwing motion into the mix means the Mountaineers will have a tough challenge to put it all together.
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East Carolina used to be a team built on speed and quickness, especially along its lines. No more.
Weight isn't everything, but with some of the struggles that Troth and the offense have experienced this year, it wouldn't be surprising to see ECU go a bit more conservative, load up the line of scrimmage, and try to pound it against WVU early.
That analysis may go against conventional wisdom, as WVU has been respectable against the run this year. However, ECU has to know that the Mountaineers have been focusing on shoring up their pass defense, so they may well try to cross the West Virginia coaching staff up by going to a power game early.
Such a strategy would probably force WVU to adjust early, and would set up play action and the expected trick or two later in the game.
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Check our our tailgating page for some great ideas for this week's feasting!