With ECU’s loss to UCF now squarely in the past, all of Pirate Nation’s attention is on this Saturday’s homecoming game versus the Memphis Tigers. ECU (3-3, 2-1) kicks off the second half of the college football season with four out of the final six games at home against teams with a combined record of 8-23, including Memphis (1-4, 1-0).
Putting it nicely, this matchup favors the Pirates. The Tigers enter Dowdy-Ficklen coming off of their first win of the season, a 14-10 win over Conference USA opponent Rice (1-5, 0-3). Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam leads the Tigers offensively, having thrown for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns (with just one interception). As a team, Memphis is averaging just 159.6 passing yards per game, which ranks 114th in the nation.
Karam’s top two targets are Keiwone Malone (25 catches for 272 yards and 2 TDs) and Marcus Rucker (20 catches for 263 yards and 3 TDs). None of their receiver’s statistics really stand out on paper through five games played. Of all the receivers outside of Malone and Rucker, none have double-digit catches on the year.
On the ground, Memphis isn’t much better. The team averages 130 yards per game, which ranks 94th in the FBS (though they are better than ECU, who averages 110 yards per game which is good for 110th in the FBS). Memphis’s Jerrell Rhodes has rushed for 224 yards on 52 carries to lead the Tigers, along with two rushing touchdowns. Memphis’s overall offense puts up 20.6 points per game (106th in the FBS) which is just one tenth of a point higher than ECU’s offensive point production (20.5 ppg, 107th in the FBS). Regardless, the Pirate defense should be able to dominate at home.
Defensively, the Tigers give up just shy of 30 points per game (29.8 ppg, 88th in FBS) against sub par opponents. Memphis has lost to FCS Tennessee-Martin, and given up over 30 points to Arkansas State and Duke. That doesn’t even include the 48 points they gave up in the loss to Middle Tennessee. Match that defensive production against a Pirate offense that has looked better and better as the weeks progress and ECU fans should be in for a treat.
The main matchup to watch this Saturday should be the play of ECU’s secondary against Karam and the Memphis offense. Karam has been efficient at the helm of the Memphis offense though his numbers don’t jump off of the stat sheet. If the Pirate secondary can shut down the Tigers passing game and force a turnover or two, the game should be assuredly in the hands of ECU.
On the other side of the ball, ECU’s Shane Carden is in line to have a career day as the Pirates signal caller. Carden has thrown for more yards in each of his last three games and looks to be settling in to his role with the offense. Against a Memphis defense that is susceptible to giving up points, the Pirates offense should be on full display.
When all is said and done, this game is still a big match up for the Pirates. It is a Conference USA East Division Matchup. Despite their record, Memphis is 1-0 in conference and currently sits ahead of the Pirates in the standings. If ECU wants to make a return to a conference title game, they first have to take care of Memphis. My prediction: the Pirates win 35-10.