The Pirates have a lot of question marks on the offensive side of the ball going into the contest. After having graduated their starting quarterback, Dominique Davis, and big-play wide receiver, Lance Lewis, concerns lie in replacing these players and keeping the offense up to snub. Earlier this week, head coach Ruffin McNeil named junior Rio Johnson the starting quarterback for Saturday’s game after a lengthy quarterback competition with Shane Carden, Brad Wornick, and Cody Keith. Johnson served as Davis’ back-up in 2011 and appeared in four games.
In 2011, Appalachian State went a respectable 8-4 in the Southern Conference. Despite winning twice as many games as they lost, the Mountaineers expect more and see last season as a down year as their notoriously dominant offense was held to an average under 400 yards per game, which hasn’t happened since 2004. The Mountaineers are led by junior quarterback Jamal Jackson, who took over halfway into the 2011 campaign and tossed 15 touchdown passes and 2,000 yards. It won’t be hard to pick him out either. The junior is 6’5, 203 pounds, and is mobile as well, scoring seven touchdowns with his feet and rushing for nearly 300 yards.
After having been the offensive coordinator of ASU’s powerful offense from 2004-2008, Scott Satterfield returns to the Black and Gold after stints at Toledo and Florida International. Satterfield has helped win three national titles along with six Southern conference titles during his fifteen years at ASU, as both a player and a coach. With the pieces on offense the Mountaineers have in place, this year’s team can definitely put up astronomical numbers.
As explosive as these two spread offenses can be, the key to this game is the play of the units on the other side of the ball. I give the Pirates the edge here as they have a great group coming back that is highlighted by tackling machine, Jeremy Grove and junior safety Damon Magazu. This defensive unit believes that they can be a top 25 defense in 2012, which is saying a lot since only two years ago, they were ranked last in almost every defensive category before switching to the 3-4.
When it’s all said and done and the ball is kicked off on Saturday, this is ECU’s game to win. The only thing that should stop the Pirates from winning this game is themselves. In the last meeting between these schools, ECU went up 24-0 but had to hold on by a thread 29-24 after becoming complacent in the second half. It can be easy for the Pirates to look over a team like App. State, knowing that they will face SEC power South Carolina the following week. If this happens, ASU will make them pay. I don’t foresee this occurring, therefore I like ECU to win the game, but I do think it will be closer than what many predict.
Prediction: East Carolina- 31, Appalachian State- 21