1. Keep the passing game strong: East Carolina currently ranks 12th in the nation for passing yards with just north of 340 yards per game. Not to say Vintavious Cooper and company aren’t strong on the ground, but Shane Carden’s passing is the most potent aspect of the Pirates’ offense. With a third of the season remaining after this game, Carden has already tallied over 2,300 passing yards. A strong performance from the passing game won’t come easy, though, because Florida International boasts a pretty fast secondary.
2. Force turnovers: FIU’s running game isn’t threatening. The Golden Panthers only average 74 rushing yards per game, so ECU can afford to put more pressure on quarterback Jake Medlock. Southern Miss was able to grab two picks from Medlock, which almost cost FIU the one-point game. If the Pirates can force Medlock to make a few turnovers, they should be able to easily shut down FIU’s offense.
3. Get over playing in front of a small crowd: One of ECU’s biggest struggles against Tulane was playing on the road in a quiet stadium. Rick Smith said after Sunday’s practice that ECU will, once again, be playing in front of very few people. For a team that is used to playing for upwards of 50,000 people, it can be hard for the Pirates to create that kind of energy on their own.
1. Come out strong in the secondary: FIU has a lot of speed in their secondary, which is going to be necessary to halt the likes of Justin Hardy and Lance Ray. ECU has lost plenty of receivers to injuries and policy violations, but that hasn’t done too much damage to the efficiency of the potency of Carden and the passing game. The Golden Panthers will need to be prepared to defend shorter passes, but they’ll also have to look out for Ray, who, in the absence of true freshman Davon Grayson, has stepped up as a downfield threat.
2. Rely on passing: FIU is going to struggle to get the ball downfield. The Golden Panthers rushing game is weak and ECU’s rushing defense is top-five in the nation, so they’ll have to rely on Medlock and the passing game to get anywhere. There are a few problems with that game plan, though. Medlock has only been completing about half his passes this season, so he’ll have to step up to give his team a chance. On top of that, Damon Magazu has an interception in each of the last three games and is on the forefront of a dangerous secondary unit for ECU.
3. Medlock avoiding picks: If FIU doesn’t want the game to escape them, the Golden Panthers have to do everything to avoid turning the ball over. Medlock threw two picks against Southern Miss—a team that Carden threw for three touchdowns against. However, he only has six interceptions on the season, so it hasn’t proven to be too much of a pattern. So long as Medlock can handle the pressure of ECU’s pass rush and step up his accuracy, FIU will have a chance.