The big stage for the American Athletic Conference may not come until Saturday when Temple hosts Notre Dame, but the AAC North Division will be in the focal point Friday evening in Connecticut. The Connecticut Huskies look to pull closer to .500 football with a home win against East Carolina. The Pirates are coming off a frustrating home loss last Thursday night against the Owls, dropping them to 4-4 on the season. The Huskies need this game to keep the hopes of getting to a bowl season within reach, and getting a chance to play a team that has already lost three game son the road could be key for Bob Diaco's squad.
East Carolina at UConn
Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: East Carolina -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Pirates are plunderin' for sacks
East Carolina's defense was held without a sack last week in a loss to Temple, and that was a bit of a rarity for the Pirates. East Carolina had four sacks in each of the two games leading up to last week's game against the Owls, and they had eight sacks the week before that stretch against SMU. Linebacker Montese Overton leads the team with 7.5 sacks through eight games this season. His leadership has had a ripple effect on freshman Yiannis Bowden and sophomore linebacker Jordan Williams. Bowden and Williams are second and third, respectively, on the team in sacks this season.
2. Hold on to the ball, ECU!
East Carolina has had a rough season just keeping possession of the football. The Pirates have fallen on the negative side of the turnover margin in all but two games this season, and one of those games on the positive side was against FCS Towson. It is no secret that teams managing to hold on to the football have a much better chance of winning games, and this is a key area of concern for East Carolina as they hit the road. Entering Friday night, East Carolina has a turnover margin of minus-six (-6), while UConn will start the night with a plus-five (+5). If East Carolina is going to avoid losing a fourth game on the road this season on Friday night, finding a way to protect the football is an absolute must.
3. UConn's no-fly zone?
Speaking of turnovers, UConn has a pair of defensive backs that can play a huge role in the turnover department Friday night. Junior Jhavon Williams and sophomore Jamar Summers are among the AAC leaders in turnovers with six combined interceptions this season, each with three picks. Neither player has been able to create a huge game-changing play with an interception, but that does not mean ECU will have to be any less careful with the football when taking to the air. The Huskies have ways of making teams pay for any mistakes through the air.
On paper it looks as though East Carolina is the clear favorite in this one, and Las Vegas agrees with that. What should be alarming is East Carolina's trends on the road. Mistakes tend to be more frequent and momentum is rarely seized when given an opportunity to do so. Because of that, you should expect East Carolina to be in for a rough night against a UConn team that will not roll over and play dead. Winning in East Hartford will be no easy task, and it could quickly turn into a bit of an ugly and scrappy game.
Prediction: East Carolina 23, UConn 17
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.