Tight Game Expected Between East Carolina & South Carolina

East Carolina Pirates RB

Jay Pryce

Thursday, September 15, 2016 7:18 PM UTC

Thursday, Sep. 15, 2016 7:18 PM UTC

East Carolina travels to Williams-Brice Stadium to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday (4:00 p.m. ET). Most insiders predict a tight battle. Check out our college football pick and betting preview here. 

East Carolina Pirates vs South Carolina Gamecocks                 

South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS)
Head coach Will Muschamp makes his home debut in Columbia after splitting two inter-conference matchups on the road against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State to kick off the season. South Carolina topped the Commodores 13-10 in Nashville in the opener but was handled easily by the Bulldogs 27-14 at Davis Wade Stadium on Saturday. Overall, the team has displayed mixed results through its first two contests, which is to be expected with a program that went 3-9 last season and under new leadership.

The offense needs the most work. It has scored just 27 points all season, albeit against two tough-nosed defenses. Nonetheless, it’s fallen 6 points below College Football oddsmakers’ expectations in each game.

Starting quarterback Perry Orth was benched in the second half of the Mississippi State loss. True freshman Brandon McIlwain relieved him and led the Gamecocks to their only touchdown drives in the contest. Fans are clamoring for more of the four-star recruit, and he will likely get the honors against ECU.

Muschamp is a defensive guru, but his pieces are not quite in place yet. It’s allowing just 18.5 points per game but is guilty of missing a slew of tackles. Moreover, it’s been gashed for 229.5 yards per game on the ground. The secondary is thin, and the unit hasn’t faced a passing attack as lethal as the Pirates. Muschamp's men will have to control the line of scrimmage to slow down the visitor’s ship.


East Carolina Pirates (2-0 SU, 2-0 ATS)
New head coach Scottie Montgomery is now 2-0 in his young career after beating up on in-state rivals N.C. State 33-30 last Saturday. The former Duke coordinator features an up-tempo offensive spread, but will employ some two tight-end sets and such on occasion. This is not the Air Raid scheme former head coach Ruffin McNeil employed, but pretty close.

The Pirates are loaded at the skill positions with top-level talent and experience. Senior Philip Nelson, a Minnesota, and Rutgers transfer is the main man under center. He’s accounted for six touchdowns and 695 yards through the air on 61 of 75 passes to begin 2016.

Senior JUCO transfer James Summers is the feature piece in the offense, and can lineup at wide out or in the backfield. Senior Zay Jones, who currently leads all active FBS players in catches (258), leads a trio of wide receivers with 15 or more receptions on the season.

Defensively, the Pirates are undersized and rely on speed. They roll out a 2-4-5 alignment against spreads with the outside linebackers moving up to defensive end when needed. The unit struggled to slow down the Wolfpack on Saturday, the ACC offense averaging 7.9 yards per play. N.C. State, though, faltered in the red zone and was victimized by poor kicking. The unit has a tough time against South Carolina’s offensive line.


Final Analysis
East Carolina has produced some sneaky-good teams over the years, and will not be intimidated playing in a SEC road contest. South Carolina is 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS when hosting the Pirates in Columbia as the short-priced favorite of 8 points or less, or as a dog. The head-to-head numbers, in fact, are part of a larger trend favoring East Carolina as road pups against top conferences. In its last 19 away games against Power Five opponents, it is 12-5-2 ATS when spotted 12 points or less, beating the number by 3.95 points on average.

The Pirates are very athletic on offense, particular at wide receiver. They should give the Gamecocks secondary, missing several scholarship players, plenty of trouble. The East Carolina defense is easily a notch or two below what the Gamecocks have faced, and Muschamp’s anemic offense should be able to move the ball.  McIlwain ought to spark new confidence in the unit as well. Both teams are likely to put up 20-plus points, making the OVER 50 a valuable College Football Pick. We’ll make that the play. We’ll also sprinkle a little on the money line for the Pirates (+140 at Heritage, where you will find a 50% Cash Bonus) in what will finish a one-score win, either way, depending on which team catches the most breaks.

Free College Football Pick: Over 50 & East Carolina +140
Best Line Offered: at Heritage


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