East Carolina Pirates (4-3, 2-4 ATS) at Memphis Tigers (2-5, 1-5 ATS)
Liberty Bowl Memphis, T.N. Tuesday October 27th 8:00PM Eastern
by Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: East Carolina -4.5/Memphis +4.5
Conference USA action will get the college football week started early this Tuesday night when the East Carolina Pirates travel to the Liberty Bowl to take on the Memphis Tigers. Memphis has been a big disappointment this season at 2-5 and sports one of the least efficient offenses in the conference. The Tigers look to get the season turned around against a Pirates team that they have lost to each of the last 3 seasons. East Carolina has not pulled off the big wins they did a year ago with an overall 4-3 record, but they do stand at 3-1 in the conference and control their destiny throughout the rest of the year.
The Pirates play fairly well on both sides of the ball, but the defense may give them the edge over most of their opponents. Defensively, the Pirates have allowed just 319 yards per game in conference play and held opponents to just 18 points per game in those contests as well. The defense is very discipline and rarely gives up big plays. The Pirates defense also does a good job at forcing opposing offenses into mistakes. East Carolina has 17 total takeaways on the season. The secondary will get to face a Memphis offense who has a bunch of quarterback issues this season and that will be troubles for the Tigers from a defense that already owns 10 picks on the year.
On offense East Carolina has a fairly balanced approach. Senior quarterback Patrick Pinkney has thrown for 1,299 yards while completing 57% of those tosses. The Pirates quarterback’s accuracy troubles have accounted for 6 picks this season including at least one every game outside of their meeting with North Carolina. However, the numbers can be misleading as well. Pinkney has been very effective at times as well this season moving the ball down the field. WR Dwayne Harris is the go to guy on the team and has 42 catches for 465 yards. Also, be sure to keep your eyes on senior tailback Dominique Lindsay. Lindsay has 431 yards on the year despite missing two games and is carrying a solid 5.6 yards per carry average. The Tigers have had trouble guarding the run this season so expect to see Lindsay get plenty of touches this Tuesday night.
Memphis has had a bit of a quarterback carousal this season. Senior Arkelon Hall started the year behind center, but was replaced rather shortly by Tyler Bass. Bass then tore a labrum in his left shoulder that ended his season. The injury resulted in junior Will Hudgens getting an opportunity the last two weeks behind center. Hudgens has thrown 4 touchdowns and 3 picks in the last two weeks for the Tigers offense and it is safe to say there are still plenty of question marks behind center. However, the offense still has a few playmakers that can make things very interesting.
WR Duke Calhoun has 40 catches for 673 yards this season which leads the conference. The Tigers star wide out is averaging 16.7 yards per catch and also has 5 scores on the season as well. The best way to bust out a big play on the East Carolina defense will likely be through the air given they have a pretty solid defensive front. If Calhoun can get behind a few defenders on some big plays perhaps the Tigers could pull of the upset. Also, running back Curtis Steele will certainly be a big factor as well. Steele has 95 carries for 511 yards and 5 scores. Steele is carrying the ball for 5.4 yards per carry and if the quarterbacks continue to have troubles then expect Steele to get a big dosage of carries.
Jay’s Pick – The difference in the game will be each team’s balance on offense. Pinkney despite some bad decisions on the year, will move the ball down the field for the Pirates. Look for the Memphis quarterbacks to struggle against this solid secondary and that should keep East Carolina on top of the East division in Conference USA.