For ECU, they will be relying on sophomore quarterback Shane Carden to lead the Pirates to victory in his first career start. Carden was brought in to run the Air-Raid offense that Head Coach Ruffin McNeil and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley brought with them from Texas Tech, and has proved to be the more mobile quarterback between him and Rio Johnson. The Pirates should also expect to see a lot of the same things defensively from USM because Ellis Johnson was previously South Carolina's defensive coordinator. Injury-wise, the Pirates will be without cornerback Leonard Paulk, nose-tackle Michael Brooks and defensive-end Justin Dixon while cornerbacks Kristopher Sykes and Jacobi Jenkins are questionable.
Keys to the game
1. Give Carden confidence early- It is important for the Pirates to get Shane Carden into the game early and allow him to have confidence that he can run the offense and go out and win the game on the road.
2. Pound that rock- With less than twenty carries against USC and only three in the first half, the Pirates abandoned their running game early on. That can't happen against USM. ECU has personnel in that department, so even if not successful early in the game, they should stay committed to running the ball. It's also a good way to relieve pressure off a young quarterback.
3. Turnovers- This one feels like a given. It doesn't matter who they're playing, the Pirates can't expect to win many games after turning over the ball five times. To have a chance of winning on the road in a hostile environment, ECU must win the turnover battle.
When it's all said and done, both of these teams are mirror images of each other and it's going to be a fantastic game, as it usually shapes up to be when these two teams meet. I do like the Pirates in this one.
Prediction: East Carolina- 31, Southern Miss- 24