After both teams had games canceled because of Hurricane Florence, two in-state foes will end their seasons against each other as the East Carolina Pirates travel to Raleigh to play the NC State Wolfpack.
This season, much like the previous two, the Pirates have had their fair share of adversity. On Thursday, ECU fired head coach Scottie Montgomery after three seasons in which he compiled a 9-26 overall record. Defensive coordinator David Blackwell will be the Pirates' interim head coach for Saturday's game, which is a make up for the team's originally scheduled Sept. 15 date with Virginia Tech.
For NC State, Saturday will be a chance for them to equal their win total from a year ago. The Wolfpack (8-3, 5-3 ACC) defeated archrival North Carolina 34-28 in overtime last Saturday. With a bowl appearance already secure, NC State has a chance to post its first 10-win season since 2002. This game replaces a Sept. 15 home date with West Virginia.
This will be the 30th all-time meeting between ECU and NC State. The Wolfpack lead the series 16-13, but the Pirates have won the last three meetings, including their last trip to Raleigh in 2013.
East Carolina at NC State
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: NC State -23
Three Things to Watch
1. NC State's motivation
There are many players still on the Wolfpack roster that remember when ECU defeated them 33-30 in Greenville just two seasons ago. Although this isn't a conference game, expect many NC State players to be highly motivated.
One of those players on the 2016 Wolfpack team that lost to the Pirates was quarterback Ryan Finley. After getting off to a 20-19 lead at halftime, NC State only scored one touchdown in the second half as East Carolina came away with the win.
In that game, Finley threw for 259 yards and a touchdown. A senior playing in his last home game, you can bet the ACC"s leading passer will do his part to make sure Saturday is memorable.
2. How will ECU players and coaches respond?
Now that Montgomery has been fired, how will the players play in the final game of a disappointing 2018 season?
"As much as we would have liked the outcome to be different, the progress of a program is ultimately measured by its competitiveness, win total and championships," ECU chancellor Cecil Staton said. "It is our decision to move in a different direction with new leadership"
If the Pirates want to defeat the Wolfpack, they certainly will have to play better than they did a week ago. Against Cincinnati, ECU turned the ball over five times as the game was pretty much decided before halftime.
3. Will the suspensions have any effect on the Wolfpack?
NC State will be short-handed at some point during Saturday's game against ECU. After last weekend's overtime victory against North Carolina, a fight broke out in the end zone between the two teams. As a result of the incident, offensive linemen Tyler Jones, Justin Witt and wide receiver Freddie Phillips Jr. will be suspended for either the first or second half of the game (to be determined by the coaching staff) against the Pirates.
Jones is the most recognizable name from this group as he is a three-year starter at left tackle and was just named first-team All-ACC on Monday.
NC State hasn't beaten East Carolina since 2008 (three-game span), but that should come to an end this weekend. The Wolfpack are just the better team in all three phases of the game, and they should cruise easily.
The biggest question is can the Pirates make a game of it early on? One of ECU's three wins this season came against North Carolina, so the Pirates should be motivated to play their in-state big brother. But barring a terrible day by Ryan Finley and the NC State offense, the Wolfpack should put up north of 40 points against ECU.
Prediction: NC State 52, East Carolina 13
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.