East Carolina is getting close to being desperate for a win. UConn is hoping to rebound off a loss. Something has to give when the Pirates and Huskies meet on Sunday (yes, on Sunday) in what has unexpectedly turned out to be the American Athletic Conference (AAC) opener for these East Division teams.
East Carolina at UConn
Kickoff: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: UConn -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. College football on Sunday?
East Carolina and UConn adjusted their schedule to accommodate schedule changes made by the American Athletic Conference following Hurricane Irma. As a result, ECU and UConn are now taking up a slot to fill on the weekend schedule on Sunday afternoon. Don’t expect the one-day delay to alter much as far as the preparation for the game is concerned. Football coaches and players may like to stay in a routine, but a game on Sunday shouldn’t be too much of a hassle here. If anything, it will cause a bit more concern in preparing for their next games (ECU vs. South Florida, UConn at SMU) the following Saturday with one less day to recover and prepare.
2. East Carolina’s defense has more holes than Swiss cheese (and UConn’s is only marginally better)
The Pirates recently fired their defensive coordinator and it was easy to see why. But the change did not immediately lead to dramatic change, although their most recent game was against Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech. The Pirates have been plundered for 1,903 yards of offense in three games, an average of 634.3 yards per game, with roughly a pretty equal distribution of yards given up on the ground (908) and through the air (995). That’s good for 11th in the AAC in total defense (Tulsa is actually worse), making UConn’s 10th-ranked defense in the AAC look fairly decent (536.5 ypg allowed in two games).
3. Underrated wide receivers in action
Both UConn and East Carolina have some wide receivers worth watching in this one. The Huskies will hope Hergy Mayala keeps racking up yards as the AAC’s fourth-leading receiver in average yards per game, and he has scored three touchdowns in two games. ECU has seen senior Davon Grayson make some nice plays early on and could use a good effort form him in this one. Neither team defends the pass well, so we could see some big plays from each.
Neither team has a distinct advantage over the other, but UConn’s defense is the more reliable of the two on Sunday. UConn quarterback Bryant Shirreffs wasn’t great last week at Virginia, but he did toss a pair of touchdowns and will hope to improve on that this weekend.
Prediction: UConn 26, East Carolina 23
— 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 contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.
(Top photo courtesy of UConn Football's Facebook page)