The NC State Wolfpack will try to finish their season in style with a game against an in-state foe, the East Carolina Pirates. This game was scheduled after both teams had a game canceled earlier this season. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EST on Saturday, December 1, at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina. Fans can find the game on ACC Network Extra and local stations in ACC markets.
Based on this week’s college football betting odds, the Wolfpack are 24-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 60.5 points.
For NC State, this game figures to be the cherry on top of another solid season. The Wolfpack finished third in the ACC Atlantic and are 8-3 overall after back-to-back wins over Louisville and North Carolina to close out their conference schedule. If NC State can take care of business against East Carolina and then win their bowl game, they’ll finish the season with 10 wins, which would be a first for the Dave Doerun era.
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack, they will be a little short-handed in the 1st half. After last week’s overtime win over UNC, a fight broke out between the two teams. As a result, starting offensive linemen Tyler Jones and Justin Witt and wide receiver Freddie Phillips Jr. have been suspended for the 1st half of Saturday’s game.
As for East Carolina, Saturday’s game could mark the end of an era. Head coach Scottie Montgomery is firmly on the hot seat at the moment. The Pirates are currently 3-8 on the season and went just 1-7 in American Conference play. With a loss to NC State, the Pirates will finish 3-9 for the third consecutive season under Montgomery. Many believe that will be enough to fire him. However, an upset over an in-state rival could be enough to save Montgomery’s job.
Despite being in different conferences, there is a real rivalry between these two schools. Geographically, they are located less than 100 miles apart. Also, for the past decade, the winner of each meeting has received the Victory Barrel trophy. While they don’t meet every year, East Carolina has won the last three meetings, including a 33-30 win in 2016. In fact, NC State hasn’t beaten the Pirates since 2008, so ECU will have no fear going up against their rivals from the ACC.
As usual, I loathe having to eat this many points in a rivalry game. However, East Carolina is as bad as their record indicates, perhaps worse. The Wolfpack would have to play their worst game of the season to not win this game comfortably. It’s a big spread, but I like NC State to cover it.
Aside from their shocking win early in the season against a North Carolina team that ended up going 2-9, East Carolina’s season has been a disaster. They lost to an FCS opponent to open the season and four of their eight losses have come by at least 20 points. In short, they don’t match up well against teams with high-level talent, which will be a problem against NC State.
Defensively, the Pirates are quite pitiful. Last time out, they gave up 56 points and over 600 yards to a Cincinnati team that isn’t even that explosive offensively. It also didn’t help that the ECU offense turned the ball over five times. It was a similar story against the likes of Temple, Houston, and Memphis, and I expect the Pirates to give up a lot of points against the Wolfpack.
NC State may be lacking a consistent rushing attack, but they do have a quarterback in Ryan Finley who has NFL potential. Finley has incredible accuracy and some dynamic playmakers around him. He should have no trouble picking apart a weak ECU defense. Plus, after a subpar outing against UNC last week, Finley should be motivated to finish his season on a high note, especially on senior day.
The Pirates have nearly as many issues on the offensive side of the ball. To be fair, the midseason switch to freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers has provided a spark. His accuracy has been spotty, especially against quality defenses. But Ahlers has thrown for big yardage and can cause problems with his legs. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they don’t have much of a running game outside of Ahlers, nor do they have reliable receivers outside of senior Trevon Brown.
The Wolfpack should have enough talent on defense to slow down a rather limited ECU offense. Outside of the ACC, the NC State defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game this season. They’ve also been a little more reliable when playing at home. The talent level is also at least a notch or two above what East Carolina has, save for Ahlers and Brown.
Ultimately, I expect the Wolfpack to score 40-plus points in this game. Barring a bad day from Finley, the East Carolina defense isn’t going to get too many stops in this game. As long as the NC State defense can hold the Pirates to 20 points or less, which seems reasonable, there’s every chance the Wolfpack will cover the 24-point spread.