GREENVILLE, N.C. -- East Carolina kicker Ben Hartman booted a 39-yard field goal as time expired as…
CFN's Take: East Carolina vs. North Carolina
Why to watch: The Butch Davis era in Chapel Hill got off to a nice start with a shipshape 37-14 defeat of James Madison. That’s called progress for a program that labored to beat I-AA Furman and William & Mary in recent years, and hasn’t had a winning season since 2001. With Davis has come a new energy and a slew of talented underclassmen that dot the Tar Heel two-deep. Chief among those fresh faces is redshirt freshman QB T.J. Yates, who debuted by going 13-of-18 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. If North Carolina can keep rolling against East Carolina, enthusiasm for the football team will reach its highest point since Mack Brown was on the sidelines a decade ago. The Pirates stepped into an impossible situation in Blacksburg last Saturday, and handled themselves rather well. Faced with being the other team as Virginia Tech, and much of the nation, honored its slain students, ECU came close to pulling off a Herculean upset. Once the non-conference portion of the schedule ends, the Pirates are good enough to win Conference USA and represent the league in the Liberty Bowl.
Why North Carolina might win: East Carolina lacks the playmakers on offense to take advantage of a Tar Heel defense that’s very green in the secondary and about to replace one its few veterans, injured LB Chase Rice, with true freshman Bruce Carter. The fact that the Pirates managed only 261 yards and one score last week was not just because the Hokies were the opponent. QB Patrick Pinkney wouldn’t be getting his first career start if Rob Kass hadn’t been arrested for a DUI, and the Pirate receivers are a pedestrian bunch.
Why East Carolina might win: The Pirate defensive line vs. the Tar Heel offensive line shapes up as a potential mismatch that’ll force Yates into mistakes in the first road game of his career. While ECU was clamping down on a very good Hokie running game last weekend, North Carolina was struggling at the point of attack to create space against James Madison. Things don’t get any easier for the Tar Heel blockers in this week’s trip to Greenville.
Who to watch: Lightly recruited out of high school, LB Quentin Cotton has emerged in two seasons as a real find for Skip Holtz’s defense. A sure tackler from the weakside, he was everywhere in the loss to Tech, making 14 tackles and two tackles for loss, and forcing a fumble. With the Tar Heels likely to play it conservative Saturday, No. 50 will be around the ball a lot again this week.
What will happen: While North Carolina is clearly heading north, it’ll struggle to move the chains this week against a physical, well-coached East Carolina defense. The Pirates will get a couple of big plays on offense from mercurial RB Chris Johnson to make it close, but there won't be enough offense to win.
CFN Prediction: North Carolina 20 ... East Carolina 13... Line: East Carolina -7
Must See Rating: (5 Mad Men - 1 Chelsea Lately) ... 2.5
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