West Virginia Mountaineers vs. East Carolina Pirates Preview and Pick

#8 West Virginia Mountaineers at East Carolina Pirates
Sat. Sept. 6, 2008 – Dowdy Ficklen Stadium – Greenville, NC
4:30 pm ET, ESPN
by Matt of Predictem.com

The fall is unofficially here with the passing of Labor Day and so is week two of the NCAA College Football season. An interesting matchup in the non-conference season sends the 8th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers to North Carolina for a tilt with the Pirates of East Carolina. The matchup gets underway on Saturday afternoon and can be seen on ESPN.

This game is carrying a little more juice with ECU fresh off the upset of 17th ranked Virginia Tech last week and WVU is still unveiling a new look under first year coach Bill Stewart.

A look at the college football sportsbooks finds West Virginia an 8 point favorite, although that line may be a half point in either direction depending on your book of choice. The over/under total for the game is at 49 or 50 on most offshores and money line has WVU at -320 to -330 with ECU in the +270 range.

Both teams come in at 1-0 on the early season with the Mountaineers taking a 48-21 decision in Morgantown against Villanova and ECU completing the 27-22 stunner of VA Tech in their home opener. This will be West Virginia’s first game with a line this year and the Pirates sit at 1-0 against the spread with the win last week.

West Virginia is a straight up 5-0 in recent meetings between these teams and is 5-2 ATS in the last seven versus ECU. The Mountaineers have been solid on the road against the spread of late, going 5-1 in the last six and 13-5 over the last few seasons.

East Carolina has a nice run going against the spread as well, with a 5-1 ATS mark to go along with an identical 5-1 straight up record over the last six overall. ECU has a bit of recent history on it’s side as the home team is 6-2 against the number in the last eight meetings of this series.

Both teams should be at near full strength with no players appearing on the Mountaineers injury report and only RB Dominique Lindsay out for the Pirates.

West Virginia will be led by senior quarterback Pat White and the offense proved much more dynamic under Coach Stewart in the win over Villanova. White and the Mountaineers aired it out more than they ran, leading to 208 passing yards and a career best 5 touchdowns for the quarterback. White also gained 63 yards on the ground to complement Noel Devine’s 47 rushing yards on only nine carries. Receivers Alric Arnett and Jock Sanders combined for 12 receptions, totaling 132 yards and snagged four TD’s. The WVU defense played well enought to win, but will look to get off the field sooner as Villanova held a time of possession edge in the game.

ECU battled the Hokies all day in their game before finally making the big play with a blocked punt and return for a TD with less than two minutes to go. The Pirates got a solid effort out of senior QB Patrick Pinkney who threw for only one TD, but no interceptions and managed a rushing score as well. Running back Jonathan Williams chipped in a score and junior Jamar Bryant was the recipient of Pinkney’s touchdown strike. Dwayne Harris and Davon Drew were both over 60 yards receiving, giving the Pirates a balanced offensive attack.

ECU has a tall order ahead to pull off back to back big upsets against some BCS hopefuls, and while the Dowdy Ficklen crowd will be on fire, some more magic will be needed to pull this one out.

West Virginia will likely look to build on the strong offensive effort, but will probably try to balance the run in a bit to keep the home crowd in their seats. A stronger defensive effort in terms of yards allowed will help with that goal as well.

Matt’s Pick: West Virginia covers the 8, but not by a whole lot. Good Luck.