Bet East Carolina to Cover vs. North Carolina NCAA Football

Willie Bee

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 3:43 PM GMT

East Carolina has beaten the college football odds in each of the first three games.  Can the Pirates do it again this Saturday at home against the North Carolina Tar Heels?

Now comes the hard part for East Carolina head coach Ruffin McNeil, keeping his Pirates from suffering a letdown and proving last week's upset at Virginia Tech was no fluke.

McNeil and his staff hope to accomplish both tasks, and beat an in-state rival in the process as the North Carolina Tar Heels come to Greenville.  ESPNU will provide the pictures starting at 3:30 PM (ET), and East Carolina is small 2-2½ point chalk on the natural turf at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, the spread darting as high as -3 at some shops along the way.

A 65½ point total was first reported, but that has climbed to 66 at most shops listed on SBR's live college football odds.

This is something of a rare appearance for the Tar Heels in Greenville, Saturday's approximate 250 mile journey only the fourth time UNC has met ECU on its home turf.  North Carolina has a 12-3-1 lead in the all-time series that can be traced to the 1972 season.  East Carolina owns the bragging rights, however, after the Pirates stumped the Heels 55-31 in Chapel Hill a year ago.  North Carolina was giving up 12.5 for that contest, the Pirates stopping a 4-game UNC win streak and 6-straight covers by the Tar Heels in the rivalry.

 

Heels Coming Off Early Bye Week
Larry Fedora takes UNC out on the highway for the first time this season following a 2-0 start to 2014.  The Tar Heels had last week off, Fedora insisting his staff used the time to work on fundamentals after neither win over Liberty or San Diego State came as easily as the oddsmakers expected.

Fedora had also hoped the extra time would allow a few of his injured players to heal, but that may not be the case, especially on the offensive line.  Starting guards Landon Turner and Caleb Peterson are both iffy to appear against ECU, and they're big reasons why the Tar Heels have only allowed one sack in the first two games.

Testing the depth of an offensive line this early on a schedule doesn't exactly bode well for an offense that hasn't been tearing it up to begin with.  Junior QB Marquise Williams and the offense will be taking on an East Carolina defense that has already faced the Gamecocks and Hokies, and ranks 35th in total yardage while allowing just 61 points combined in its first three battles.

 

Pirates With 7 Covers In Last 8 Games
On the heels of a 10-3 campaign in 2013 that ended with a victory over Ohio in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, Ruffin has ECU poised for a third consecutive bowl trip.  The Pirates gave South Carolina a scare in Week 2, still having enough to cover the 15 point spread in the loss, and picked up their third straight ATS win of 2014 in last week's 28-21 upset at Virginia Tech where they caught the Hokies in letdown mode following an upset over Ohio State.

Shane Carden is in his third season as the starting quarterback and is off to a fast start once again.  The Houston native has a strong group of receivers to throw the ball too, which he does about two-thirds of ECU snaps, but the backfield mix has also done its job behind a stellar offensive line.

Just as UNC's offensive line depth will be tested on Saturday, so will ECU's linebacker corps.  The Pirates already lost Devaris Brunson for the year to a knee injury, and could also be without Desi Brown (leg) and Kirk Donaldson (knee) who are both questionable this week.

It's supposed to be a little bit wet in Greenville this week before the skies clear on the weekend.  Maybe mid-80s for a high on Saturday, and not much wind in the current forecast, but always get an updated forecast before going to the window.

Visions of a high-scoring shootout fill my head, but the safest free college football picks for this one is on the Pirates to cover at home.

College Football Picks: East Carolina -2.5 at 5Dimes

Season: 14-9-1 (+4.10)

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