East Carolina Pirates (2-0, 2-0 ATS) at Virginia Tech Hokies (0-2, 0-2 ATS), NCAA Football Week 3, Saturday September 18th, 1:30PM Eastern Lane Stadium Blacksburg, V.A
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: ECU +17/VT -17
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One week after the Virginia Tech Hokies let a monster win slip away in the final seconds to no. 3 Boise State, the Hokies suffered the biggest upset of the weekend as they fell to James Madison 21-16. The Hokies obviously still on a big game hangover were just sloppy and failed to find ways to score points. In fact, Virginia Tech gave up 3 turnovers including a late Darren Evans fumble that eventually led to their demise. The Hokies who were ranked 13th in the nation preseason have plummeted out of the top 25 and try to find answers when they host the East Carolina Pirates this Saturday.
The Pirates have gotten off to a quick 2-0 start while going 2-0 against the books in that stretch as well. East Carolina blasted a terrible Memphis team last week 49-27 after scoring a mild upset in their opener over Tulsa 51-49. The Pirates now have a chance to get off to a 3-0 start which was considered a big long shot before the year started. However, the Pirates have a surprising solid offense that can rack up yards. QB Dominique Davis has amassed 627 yards and 8 scores through the air in his opening two starts. Also, running back Jonathan Williams keeps the offensive attack balanced by providing consistency on the ground. Williams has totaled 203 yards on the season with 2 touchdowns. If both guys can play well, they can keep the Hokies defense on their toes and possibly result in some points.
Now I’m not exactly sold that the Pirates offense will just run up and down the field on the Hokies defense, but they should be able to remain competitive. After all, the Hokies defense held James Madison to just 235 yards in last week’s loss even though again it was James Madison. Still, Virginia Tech was solid against the Boise State offense in their opener but just struggled with giving up some big plays. The Hokies have surrendered 6 plays of 20 plus yards in their first two games and including a touchdown of over 70 yards in each of the last two outings. Virginia Tech of course has not had any help from the offense that has put them in bad situations, but still must prevent the huge game changers from occurring on defense.
The Hokies offense led by QB Tyrod Taylor has not put up any horrible numbers completing 65% for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. However, those passing numbers have not been very intimidating either. Taylor has made it a priority to look down field rather than taking off with his speedy legs as soon as the pocket breaks. However, I really think he would be much more effective if he looked to run the ball a bit more which would open up holes in the defensive secondary. Taylor has still posted 159 rushing yards to lead the team, but those numbers could be even higher.
In fact, the rushing game should be receiving the blunt of criticism. Tailback Ryan Williams rushed for 1,655 yards last season but has been held to just 135 yards through two games. Normally Williams would be running wild against under talented defenses, but that has just not been the case thus far. In fact due to the recent troubles running the football, the Hokies have appeared very beatable which I guess is the reason they are 0-2. Without a strong running game, Taylor must step up and lead the way with his arm which he has not proven he can do on a consistent basis.
As for the Pirates, Ruffin McNeil has his guys playing solid after taking over the program with Skip Holtz departure. The Pirates defense has not been very impressive giving up just less than a 1,000 total yards in their opening two starts. If McNeil can get his defense to play solid especially against the run, the Pirates may have an opportunity to do the unthinkable and send the Hokies to the 0-3 mark. However, that will be a tough task considering they have been blasted by some average offenses so far this season. Still considering the way Virginia Tech has turned the ball over, the Pirates could make things very interesting if they force a few turnovers themselves.
Jay’s pick to cover the point spread: The Hokies offense is going to come to life before too long and that is why I’m hesitant to take East Carolina and the points. Therefore, I will stay away from this side all together. However, I expect a ton of scoring so consider a play on the over.